Is 0.3 Percent Enough?

At last weekend’s Harvest Festival in College Park, Maryland, my friend David Kim gave a lively and colorful presentation titled “Fruitful Fishing and One-to-One Bible Study.” His talk really made me think.

In the middle of the talk, he presented statistics reported by a New York missionary in 2005. At the beginning of the fall semester, 300 students were contacted to see if they would be interested in Bible study. Three students (1.0%) actually came to a Bible study, and one student (0.3%) eventually participated in discipleship training.

Statistics don’t lie, but they can be interpreted in many different ways. Here are two opposing narratives that can be built around that figure of 0.3 percent.

Narrative #1: God rewards discipline, hard work, and dedication. This missionary had to work incredibly hard to raise one disciple. We should work as hard as he did, or even harder, so that God will bless us and so that we too can raise disciples of Jesus.

Narrative #2: Fishing – the practice of contacting complete strangers and inviting them to Bible study – is a difficult way to make disciples in our current environment. Although it may have worked well in other times and places, God is not blessing our fishing and one-to-one ministry right now. Instead of kicking against the goads, perhaps we should step back and prayerfully think about why so few students are responding to our invitation. What might it tell us about our methods? About the culture in which we live? About ourselves and the way we are perceived? About God and how he wants to use the church?

A few years ago, I would have simply accepted Narrative #1 and not allowed myself to consider anything else. But my understanding of Scripture and my personal experiences are now pressing me toward Narrative #2.

My mentors in UBF have always challenged me to put aside cultural presuppositions and preconceived ideas when I study the Bible. So I applied this principle and read through the New Testament to see what it says about church growth in the days of the apostles. I discovered three things.

1. The early church did not grow through intensive fishing, evangelistic outreach and membership drives. In the days immediately following Pentecost, Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship (kononia), breaking of bread, and prayer. They cared for one another’s needs and opened their homes to one another. They were not aggressively trying to bring strangers into the group, but they did meet openly in public where people could see what they were doing. They formed a genuine, loving, welcoming, Christ-centered community. Then the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Ac 2:42-47).

2. The mandate for carrying the gospel to the world in Acts 1:8, which we often call “the world mission command,” is not a command but a promise. Jesus states that his disciples will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and then they will become his witnesses. The only command that Jesus actually gives in that passage is to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:4). The disciples obeyed this command by waiting, joining together constantly in prayer, and working together under the leadership of Peter to heal the relational wounds in their fellowship caused by Judas’ betrayal (Ac 1:12-26).

3. The apostle Paul never counseled an entire church to go out and work hard to evangelize the non-believing world. He did carry out his own personal calling to preach and to teach. He encouraged individuals in the church with similar callings to diligently carry them out. For example, he exhorted Timothy to preach the Word in season and out of season (2Ti 4:2). But in his writings and advice to whole churches, he counseled them to deeply understand and believe a gospel message of salvation through Christ alone (Galatians and Romans); to praise God, purify themselves of sin, solve moral and interpersonal problems, put aside divisions, practice unity, and be conformed to the character of Christ (Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians); and so on. The big themes in Paul’s writings are holding fast to the gospel and faithfully being the Body of Christ. Increasing membership through intensive ministry-wide outreach is not found in the writings of Paul nor, to my knowledge, anywhere in the New Testament.

[Am I misreading and mischaracterizing the New Testament here? If so, please take this opportunity to show me where and how I am wrong. I have been wrong many times before. I am eager to hear counterarguments and will publicly correct myself if I am wrong.]

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that evangelism, discipling, sending missionaries, etc. are unbiblical or unnecessary. I believe they are essential and should be carried out in a wise, biblically defensible and culturally appropriate manner by those who have been truly called by God to do them. But Scriptures do not show the early church engaging in intensive, regular fishing to increase their numbers.

Despite this lack of regular fishing, the early church exhibited steady and dramatic growth. Sociologist and historian Rodney Stark (The Rise of Christianity) estimates that Christianity grew by about 40% in each decade during the first three centuries after Christ.

If the early did not aggressively pursue nonbelievers to bring them into the fold, then how did the number of disciples grow?

I believe it was not brought about by human efforts to grow the numbers. Rather, growth in numbers was a byproduct of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within the church.

On the day of Pentecost, the crowd’s willingness to listen to Peter was a direct response to their observation of the Spirit’s activity (Ac 2:14-21). In the days after Pentecost, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church was evident in wonders and signs that went far beyond the apostles’ own works and efforts (Ac 2:43).

After 3,000 converts were baptized on Pentecost (Ac 2:41), statistics on numbers of disciples are scarce. Health and vitality in the church seems to be measured not by the numbers of new members, by but by the quality of believers’ character and the inward fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

Now some of you may object to what I am saying. Here is one possible counterargument: “The fact that fishing was fruitful in earlier days of UBF proves that it is a God-approved method. If we redouble our efforts and vigorously go fishing with absolute faith, then God will bless us once again as he did in the past.”

Perhaps so. But doesn’t that argument put the cart before the horse? In my opinion, it was not fishing (nor any other method) that caused the Holy Spirit to bless UBF and produce fruit in our ministry. Rather, fishing and other activities that took place were a response to the work of the Holy Spirit that was already going on. If today’s UBF members are not fishing, some would call them disobedient and lazy. But perhaps they are simply uninspired. Inspiration (in-Spir[it]-ation) is what the Holy Spirit does.

The Spirit works in different ways at different times. Incorrect notions about him may arise when Christians experience the powerful work of the Spirit in a particular time and place (as in a revival) and then assume that it is normative; they begin to think that this is what the Spirit’s work should look like in other places and times. This is why we need to carefully compare our own experiences with what the Bible says.

This reminds me of a great little video called The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village which is narrated by Christian author and pastor Francis Chan. If you haven’t seen this video yet, I would encourage you to watch it now.

Contacting 300 students to find one disciple seems analogous to what the townspeople were doing when they pushed and pulled the tractor through the field. Perhaps such Herculean efforts are inspired by the Holy Spirit. But from a distance, doesn’t it look like an attempt to do by our own strength, diligence and hard work the things that the Holy Spirit ought to be doing?

At his point in my life, I simply cannot engage in an intensive fishing and discipleship ministry. Working full time, taking care of my family (including two special-needs children) and pastoring a church was already more than I could handle. Through a painful process of acknowledging my failures and limitations, I have been forced to make significant changes to my lifestyle to improve my physical, mental and emotional health. I discovered that I need more time for personal reading, contemplation, and writing. I need to focus on building healthy, loving relationships with my wife, my children, and members of my church and community. I need to spend quality time with God and people whom he has already placed in my life. Intensive fishing at this stage of my life would be unnatural and cause me to burn out. Unlike my wife, I have never been good at it and have always disliked it. For me, it would be sheer drudgery and pain. In fact, I think it would actually be disobedient, because I would be neglecting the personal gifts, talents, opportunities and vision that God has given me and forcing myself to wear clothing that doesn’t fit.

Moreover, at this moment, I cannot in good conscience tell the people in my church that they are required to do it either. Most of the members of Penn State UBF are no longer students. While engaging in busy lives of full-time work, taking care of young children, etc. they are also serving our church in many valuable ways. For example, tomorrow (Saturday) morning they will be gathering at our church building to rake leaves, make building repairs, and so on. They tithe. They practice and perform praise music. They teach the Bible to our children and teenagers. They come to our weekly leaders’ meeting on Thursday night. They maintain good relationships with their neighbors and serve the State College community by participating in service projects and organizations. They are truly good people. I want to love and respect all of them just as they are and give thanks to God for what they are already doing. If they are going to do more, I want them to be motivated by love and personal faith, and not by guilt, relationship pressures, or my own ambitions or expectations. Pushing them to engage in vigorous programs of evangelism and discipleship – especially when I myself cannot do it now — would offend them, and rightly so, because at this stage in their lives God may indeed be calling them to serve him in other ways.

But if members of a church do not want to get back into the trenches and “fight the one-to-one battle,” then aren’t we going to become extinct? If we don’t go fishing, then how could our church ever grow?

Perhaps we can adopt some of the strategies of the early church.

Here are just a few ideas. Perhaps we can focus on building our relationships with God, so that we deeply experience his presence and gain new understanding of how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit rather than supplant him. Perhaps we can build better relationships with one another so that we become a Christ-centered community of love, so that fewer people will leave our ministry, and so that when newcomers stop by they will be strongly attracted by the presence of Christ. Perhaps we can take a long, hard look at the sociocultural and spiritual climate within our church that tends to turn away a very large portion (some 99.7 percent?) of the people we contact, and then make intentional, prayerful, and biblically sound changes that will not drive them away.

And as our current members grow in their love for Christ, perhaps they will see new opportunities to bring Christ into their existing non-church relationships and social networks.

According to Rodney Stark, the early Christians did not create their own institutions, but joined and transformed existing ones: “Social networks grow much faster when they spread through preexisting networks” (The Rise of Christianity, p. 55).

A vivid description of how the early Christians lived is found in an ancient letter (Letter to Diognetus) written about the 2nd century. It says:

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life… With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in… And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through… Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country… They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

For the last three decades, UBF in America has remained a distinct subculture. Our idiosyncrasies, our UBFishness, is displayed powerfully to the world in how we look, speak, and act. In our methods of evangelizing and raising disciples, we have been attempting to draw young Americans out of their natural (often Christian) habitats and into our own idiosyncratic subculture. Our second gens know how to navigate that subculture, but most American students do not; it makes them uncomfortable.

Instead of assuming that it’s okay to sift through massive numbers of students to find the 0.3 percent that can remain among us, perhaps it’s time to stop, reflect upon ourselves, and consider how to reach at least some portion of the other 99.7 percent.

Or we can stay the present course. We can joyfully thank God for our 0.3 percent, train them to do exactly as we do, and send them out fishing to find that next 0.3 percent.

But putting on my statistician’s hat, I need to tell you this. If we stay the present course, the prognosis is not good. I fear that the present course is a road to extinction, because 0.3 percent is not enough.


  1. Thanks, Joe. You have raised quite a few pertinent good points, all of which we should begin to seriously and repeatedly address and reassess at all levels of our ministry, beginning from our top most senior leaders.

    Regarding fishing, I will stick my neck out and say that it is surely not the primary way today to expand the kingdom of God, except perhaps for a few who may be gifted at fishing. If your fishing %age is 0.3 %, it would probably be wise to pray and find God’s giftedness to you in some other way.

    As you suggested, we definitely have to first and foremost use our strength to build relationships to be close, loving, transparent, and open as the Father, Son, and Spirit. When we do, then all others in church and outside the church may see, as the song says, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” (not by our fishing, or training, or testimony writing, or marriage by faith, or absolute attitude, etc.)

    I will just touch on one other topic that you mentioned: we in UBF tend to imply that unless we do something, such as fishing, God can’t or won’t bless us. It almost seems as though our ministry is up to me or us, rather than primarily up to God. So, the question is: Did God bless UBF because we go fishing? Or do we emphasize that because God blessed me so much through Jesus, therefore, I go fishing, or do whatever else I do?

    Probably, people will say the latter. Then the point we should emphasize is not fishing, but that God loves me so much through the gospel. Otherwise, our methods or strategy is emphasized at the expense of Jesus, while we assume Jesus, who should always be primary and prominant and predominant.

  2. I agree, of course.

    But since we’re speaking statistics, let’s say for the sake of argument that Jesus “fished” at least 72 disciples (Luke 10:4). 12 of them agreed to long-term Bible study as “committed sheep”, but only 11 remained after Judas “ran away.” It would seem to me that the holy percentage is 11/72 = 15.3%. So 15.3% (successful fishing by the Son of God) divided by 0.3% (successful fishing by UBF missionary) comes to a 51 fold difference between Jesus and UBF missionary. (which I think is a statistically significant difference not attributable to chance).

    And to be a bit fair to us, you could say that Jesus did not technically do anything about the other 84.7% using traditional “fishing” methods. So in my mind, the question is what explains the 51 fold difference between Jesus’ fishing method and our fishing method? (besides the fact that Jesus is God-incarnate and we are not)

    On a more serious note, here is the percentage breakdown of how people joined our ministry based on the various methods/strategies. I’m curious to see what other folks are getting in their respective fellowship.

    Based on the total number from last week’s sunday worship service attendance at our fellowship:
    15.6% of those attended are the original core members of our church
    17.8% of those attended were “fished” in the traditional UBF method
    53.4% of those attended were invited through friendships
    4.4% of those attended came from other UBF fellowships
    4.4% of those attended were referred to us through the HBF ministry
    2.2% of those attended just “randomly” visited our church on their own
    2.2% of those attended came to us through marriage

    I’m not trying to imply one method is better than the other, but frankly speaking, this is the real-world data from our church.


  3. John, thanks for those useful statistics.

    I now realize that some readers may have gotten the impression that I am anti-fishing. I am not anti-fishing. I am pro- anything and everything that will glorify Christ and effectively proclaim his gospel to this generation. If you are inspired and able to go fishing and it works for you, praise God.

    What I do not like is this. (a) An assumption that, if you are not going fishing, you are lazy, disobedient or unfaithful. (b) An assumption that, if UBF chapters and UBF as a whole are not growing, the way to fix it is to redouble our efforts and go fishing. What we need is not more of any specific activity, but genuine repentance before the Lord and fresh anointing by the Holy Spirit.

  4. Hello, Joe. Thanks for the post. There are common problems between your UBF chapter and Moscow, where 100% of current disciples are no more students and most of them are married and have children. And they might be effective in something new, but there is little initiative here to update the methods.

    However, the statistics that you quoted is not very disappointing. 1% of those invited actually came, and one third of those who came became involved in discipleship training. That’s not bad.

    Jesus’ example in John Y’s comment is not very correct. Jesus had the multitudes with him, but he chose the twelve and was patient enough to work with them. And it seems when it comes to discipleship, God is patient enough to work with one Abraham.

    So there is a very small number of people when it comes to discipleship, depending on the number of people one shepherding person can care about. Others, who don’t have the gifts and calling for discipleship ministry, should still be faithful Christians.

    There is a problem, however, that our public prayers teach people a paradigm that the only good way is to be involved in discipleship ministry and/or to become missionaries. We don’t often begin with a prayer for ourselves to become good Christians first.

    • Mark Mederich

      a machine needs fuel to keep going: works produce works; must be retrofitted to allow Spirit to produce spirit..

    • Mark Mederich

      i think it’s time to reverse the question:
      is .3% leadership change enough to warrant hope in system to ever let go man’s self-serving ways & cling to God’s blessing-all ways?

    • Mark Mederich

      is 99.7% imitation of world’s ways a good spiritual result?

    • Mark Mederich

      is surpassing the world in it’s ways, a good thing?
      of course not

  5. No, Joe, I did not get that impression at all. And I’m not anti-fishing either. Like you, I just see it as another method God can bless when it is wisely employed under the leading of the Spirit with love and respect. But in reference to your last statement, I think what some folks might say in response would be, “Of course we need genuine repentance and the Holy Spirit, but perhaps bearing fruit in repentance would mean going out fishing for some individuals.” But to say that fishing is the ONLY way to express such genuine repentance or Spirit-led outreach to the lost would be going too far, in my opinion.

    Which is why it disturbs me a bit that there are genuine folks out there who might actually believe a) and b). I’m even more disturbed by the fact that UBF may be unintentionally (or intentionally?) communicating such a message. If so, my head must be in the sand. Or perhaps subconsciously, I’ve personally given my fellow UBF members the benefit of the doubt such that I unconsciously interpret “fishing” as just UBF code word for the more general spirit of “reaching out to the lost”, “evangelizing others with the gospel”, “sharing the love of Christ with others”, etc.

    What do you think about the revised assumptions:

    c) If you are not “reaching out to the lost”, you MIGHT BE lazy, disobedient or unfaithful. (This is how I usually re-interpret statements that might come across as assumption a) )

    d) If UBF chapters and UBF as a whole are not growing, the way to fix it is, assuming genuine repentance and Spirit-anointing as a given, that we may sometimes need to redouble our efforts and reach out to the lost through whatever wise methods God has made available to the Church. (This is also how I usually re-interpret statements that might come across as assumption b) )

    The learning point for me from this discussion is this: Why have I come to re-interpret things communicated in UBF circles to automatically give the theological benefit of the doubt? I’ve just become aware of this problem in my life since I realize that what I do on a day-to-day, semi-conscious level is not necessarily being mindful of others. Other folks might actually take things at face value when they hear something expressed which I would otherwise outright reject but re-interpret in my own mind, saying “Well, what this UBF person really means is…”

    A discussion for another day. Thanks for a thoughtful post, Joe.

    • Hi John.

      Great comment.

      Your (c) might be reasonable, but I would say this: Rather than guessing that someone might be lazy, disobedient, unfaithful, etc., why not ask him directly why he is or is not fishing, and then believe what he says? I wish that someone had asked me.

      For your (d), I would say this: assuming Spirit-anointing and genuine repentance seems unwise. Why not develop a discerning heart and a close personal walk with God so that we can actually recognize the Spirit’s work rather than guess or assume? I do believe that this is possible, but it is not something that anyone has taught me how to do.

    • Terry Lopez

      Hi John,

      For me ‘fishing’ has become alot more than just going to campus to invite students to Bible study. It does mean to me to reach out with God’s love to those that are in my everyday life. Whether, I meet them at the supermarkert or bank or gym or while ordering a London Fog at Starbucks. I still see the campus of UCLA as my primary area of concern, but not the only. Not by a long shot.

      And to go one further, as far as ‘growing’. I no longer see it as people who come or don’t come to our Sunday Worship service or even if I ever study the Bible with them even one time. I now try to be real with people wherever I am at and I listen to them and I build friendships and relationships, with the hope that I can share Christ with them. Of course, I don’t try and steer the conversation to that direction, but I am always ready to share Christ as opportunity presents itself. I always hope that I might meet them in the future and build a real relationship with them, but again, I don’t force it.

      Not to long ago, Mari and I and one of our students were out for lunch at a place called Freash Cutt Carving Grill. We were in line to order when these two young men came up to us, who were further along in the line, and he asked me if my name was Terry. I was surprised and wondered how he knew my name. I felt so embarrassed, because we had obviously met before, but I couldn’t remember where. We got to talking and he told me that he was a bank teller at my bank and that he remembered me, because we had talked so often. But I had stopped going into the bank like two years before and shamefully I forgot about him. But strangely he remembered me.

      Over the course of seeing him many times, I had shared with him many things, including that I am a Christian and that I studied the Bible with students at UCLA. Well, he remembered me and he wanted to say, “Hi” to me and my wife and that he wondered how things were going at UCLA with the students and ironically, the person we were having lunch with was one of those students. So I turned to the student we were at lunch with and asked him if he would like to answer him and I smiled.

      We talked for a while and I was thinking of asking for his phone number, but he shared with me that he had recently got an internship with a TV company and he was soon moving to New York. So I decided not to. But I believe if he was staying I could have gotten together with him in the future and developed a more meaningful friendship and who knows perhaps Bible study. But it didn’t work that way and I don’t feel any sense of loss about it. I shared before about the woman at the Supermarket next door, who recently asked me to study the Bible with her son. I don’t think growth is numbers. I think growth is something else. I think it’s helping people to be restored into a right (or proper) relationship with their Heavenly Father and to know Christ as Lord and Savior. Whether they ever come to UBF is irrelevent to me. Of course, I still go to campus and I still invite students to study the Bible, and it is the primary way that I get to study the Bible together with others, but it’s not the only way.

    • Terry, I like your comment here. I am also happy when I talk to people and share Christ with them. And one of the things why I didn’t want to stay in ubf was I heard too often from people “I read about ubf in Internet, it is a Korean cult, so if you are a part of this cult I don’t want to have anything common with you. Do you know that such people like you, the cult members, are going to hell?! And if you try to contact me (or my children) I will call to police”.

      As I shared my concerns with the director, he said that it is not a problem to change the name of the chapter. LOL. I don’t want to deceive anyone, and I can’t deceive myself. ubf is ubf. The change of name will not change anything except adding some more lie and hypocrisy. I’d like to share the Christ without any necessity to defend a cult. That’s why I am happy now to be in a healthy church and to share the gospel freely.

    • btw ubf as a whole also tries to delete some information from Wikipedia instead of addressing the issues. It would be better for ubf leaders to repent and include their repentance in the “story” according to Joe’s advice and to be born again organizationally. Otherwise nobody would trust ubf no matter how big the success in deleting information is.

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, you’ve made an excellent point.

      In our experiences at Penn State, one of the biggest barriers to making relationships with people — one of the main reasons why fishing seemed to be so ineffective — was that UBF had a well known reputation for authoritarian practices and cultlike tendencies. Most students had never heard of UBF. But as soon as they googled us, they were confronted with all kinds of evidence that getting involved with us would be bad news. It caused many of them to run, run, run away as fast as they could. And who can blame them? If someone invited my son or daughter to a church activity, I would hope that they would do the same.

      In my opinion, the fact that UBF leaders have done essentially nothing to clean up the ministry and address these abuses for more than four decades is unconscionable.

      Most UBF leaders have never taken the time to look at the anti-ubf material on the internet to see what the critics are saying. They call it lies, slander, garbage, persecution. They say they will never look at it, because it is a waste of their time and they need to get back to “God’s work” of fishing and 1:1 ministry. But all that criticism of ubf is freely available for anyone to see, has a continuous negative impact on everything that they try to do in the name of ubf. Even if all the anti-ubf material were completely false (and trust me, it isn’t), wouldn’t they still want to know what is there, so that they could understand how to properly answer the questions that students raise?

      I suggest that every chapter director and fellowship leader examine these websites carefully, looking for places where they and their chapters are mentioned, to understand how some people have experienced their so-called love and care. When I first looked at those websites and read what former members had said about me, it was painful and eye-opening.

    • The last time I went “ubf fishing” I walked up to a student and said “Hi”. He looked up and said, “I’m not going to join your bible cult”.

      I love your 3 points in this article Joe.

      1. The early church did not grow through intensive fishing, evangelistic outreach and membership drives.

      2. The mandate for carrying the gospel to the world in Acts 1:8, which we often call “the world mission command,” is not a command but a promise.

      3. The apostle Paul never counseled an entire church to go out and work hard to evangelize the non-believing world.

      To that I say Hallelujah and Amen!

  6. Thanks, Joe, John. From your comments, I think we need more and more such dissection and introspection and thoughtful analysis of why we do what we do. Otherwise, it becomes habitual tradition, or unanalysed church culture, which could amount to “beating a dead horse” without realizing it, I think.

    I don’t think any of us disagree that “fishing” or “cold turkey evangelism,” is really not a very productive or effective way of evangelism today, especially in the West, when most people are highly skeptical about Christianity, Christians and the Bible. And yet, I think that we are still just seemingly blindly pushing it, rather than analysing and assessing it. I think that it’s far better to try to make friends and build relationships over time, without an agenda of converting them or making them a Christian or a ubf member (even if that is our heart’s desire).

    My take on (c) is that if one is not reaching out to the lost, IT IS a problem. But I would personally not make it a problem of laziness, disobedience, or unfaithfulness, though all these elements may be involved. The solution is also definitely NOT to push, coerce, manipulate, intimidate, threaten, shame, embarrass, “just obey,” compare the person with a “fruitful shepherd,” make insinuating comments in the message or on the podium, etc, in order to make someone “go fishing” or whatever. Sorry to say, I’ve heard and seen all of those things being done.

    I think that the only way, if not the best way, to motivate any Christian who is not reaching out to the lost is to delve deeper into proclaiming and declaring and explaining and expounding the gospel, the cross, grace, Christ crucified. If one is truly moved by the gospel of what it cost Jesus to do for a wretch like me, the Holy Spirit will move the person to give his life to reach the lost. So, if our fishing or evangelistic methods or numbers are stagnant or down, our failure is the failure of not making the gospel fresh and new, but assumed or recycled or glossed over, in order to get to “go fishing,” “receive training,” etc.

    Timothy’s comment about most ubf shepherds are now no longer students is noteworthy. So, how do we reach students, if not by fishing? Nonetheless, I still think that except for some “exceptional fishers,” which I have never been, it is humanly much harder to fish someone much younger than you.

    • Dear friends,

      This is a very interesting thread. :) I was at the Harvest Festival too, and heard the presentation that Joe is talking about. As someone who came to UBF after being saved and living as a Christian for several years, I have what in some ways could be perceived as a non-traditional perspective on questions like this. For example, I believe the Biblical concept of “fishing” is based on the concept of nets. A good example is Matthew 13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” When Jesus met Andrew, he was “casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.” Several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. Even prophetically (e.g., Ezekiel 47), fishing will be done with a net.

      So I think it’s useful to consider how a net works. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia: “Fishing nets are meshes usually formed by knotting a relatively thin thread. Modern nets are usually made of artificial polyamides like nylon, although nets of organic polyamides such as wool or silk thread were common until recently and are still used.” (There’s a lot of different kinds of nets mentioned, with pictures, in that article. :) When Jesus said to Peter and Andrew “I will make you fishers of men” (NASB), I do not think he was talking about a rod and reel. As in the verse quoted above from Matthew 13, fishing is an activity that is conducted with a net. So here’s a question or two: “How does a follower of Christ ‘fish’ with a net?” “What is the net anyway?” In John 15 Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches.” We can get a sense for the ‘net’ from this, and from Jesus’ words in Matthew 13, “the kingdom of heaven is like a net”. In short, the ‘net’ we fish with is us. :) It’s us as a community. The fibers, the mesh, are our relationships with each other. If our relationships are strong, and good, healthy and holy, we will naturally operate very effectively as a net. Naturally! What is it that attracts lost, hurting people to God? It’s us. Operationally, people are drawn to a warm, loving, forgiving and truthful community of believers. What makes us “warm, loving, forgiving and truthful?” Jesus Christ among us, dwelling/living in and through us, both individually and corporately.

      One of our prayers for the past year or so has been “Lord, make us to love one another.” Why is that? Because this is how the church witnesses and grows. In John 13 Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We all want to please God by seeing His kingdom grow. We love Jesus and want Him to have many citizens in His kingdom!! Think how pleased He will be, how satisfied, to bring many people to our eternal home! It’s going to be GREAT fellowship!!! :)

      The secret to accomplishing this is to foster genuine relationships – with our wives, our husbands, OUR CHILDREN, our co-workers, our extended family members, our colleagues – with all who may cross our paths. Let me tell you about a friend of mine. He is a detective in the police department of a large city. He is also a Messianic Jew – a believer in Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah. This person exhibits the character of fostering genuine truthful, loving relationships in wonderful ways. For example, when he arrests someone for committing a crime, he preaches God’s loving word of forgiveness to them. Yes, according to God’s word they must suffer the consequences of their sinful actions, but through him God extends His offer of relationship even to “the worst of sinners.”

      This vignette is a good segue to another key point with respect to missions. We were visiting Yale UBF recently, and P. Abraham made a very telling point with respect to the great commission in Matthew 28:16-20. (He’s finishing up his seminary degree, and in the process studied Greek.) He said that the “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” in verse 19 could be better interpreted as “Therefore _as you are going_ make disciples of all the nations.” This struck me as very insightful – inspired even, because what he said is that we are called to be disciple-makers in every aspect of life. It’s not just the time spent on a campus or with a student – disciple-making, according to P. Abraham, is something that is done continuously with _everyone who crosses our paths in our day-to-day life_. I really like this concept, and believe it gets to the heart of the matter of outreach, or “fishing” as we call it in UBF. I believe every Christian, no matter what their calling or gifts, is called to be a disciple-maker. Maybe it is just your own children, or maybe it is Billy Graham style with 10s of thousands, but in the end, I believe we are called to disciple “as we are going” – as we are living our day-to-day life, interacting with people who are unsaved, saved, young, old, doctors, lawyers, teachers, garbage men. I really hope that my point is clear – certainly, we may be called to disciple college students (and many of us have been so called), but as Christians our fundamental calling is to disciple “as we are going” – disciple (and be discipled) by all who cross our paths. I am experiencing this to a much greater degree because, like Dr. Joe, I too have so many demands on my time now. So I end up discipling as I am going! :) Like my Messianic Jewish friend, I believe that our true calling is to disciple “as we are going”, as we are living our lives – for Jesus’ Name’s sake.

    • The Kingdom-Minded

      This is very true. I came across Bill Johnson from Redding, CA. He leads one of the most fruitful ministries in the US, and many people call it a revival. Currently so many Christian leaders are visiting this church to learn about how this non-mega church transformed the entire city of Redding. (It is reported that even Forbes Magazine a few years back reported that the city is now one of 10 most livable cities in the US.) I came to learned that many church leaders in Korea visited the church and the city as well. They wanted to learn some good methods to take back to their home churches. They expected a type of crusade or an outreach program to a shopping mall or a university. But, soon they were very disappointed to find out that there were none of those. So, they asked then when they will be going to the mall to preach or to the campuses to outreach. The pastor told them this: “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t have some special outreach program or crusade to the mall. We simply have church people who shop at the mall.” You see, the people at Bethel Church just go shopping, and when they see someone in a wheel chair, they just pray for the person and the person gets heal. Obviously, the person who’s just been healed wants to know more about the guy named Jesus who just heal the person. Isn’t it how stuff worked back in the Bible days? In the book of Acts, Peter went to the temple just to pray and worship. A daily routine for him. Then, he just happened to meet a man who was in desperate need of healing. By the help of the Holy Spirit, the man was healed and, not only the man who was healed, but also the people who knew the man and were watching the event take place accepted that Jesus is the Messiah. Not surprisingly, this kind of supernatural action is still happening now. I’ve met some many genuine Christian who live like the apostles in the book of Acts outside of our ministry while working as a student representative at my university. I now know that this is the normal Christian life, because God hasn’t changed since the Beginning, and Jesus even said that we could do as Jesus did in John 14:12.

      So, yes we really need to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to live our lives and be Jesus in all aspect of our lives. And that includes the miraculous signs that Jesus performed that brought many souls to encounter Heaven while Jesus and the Apostles were around. 

    • Abraham Nial
      Abraham Nial

      Hi Kingdom-Minded, I can feel your excitement. And I agree that things like healing  are totally Biblcal and has been practiced by Jesus, the Apostles and some Chritian leaders down to this day. But UBF as a ministry (sorry for the generalization) is just not ready yet for things like supernatual healing or any other gifts of the Spirit that are beyond human reasoning. I believe, evangelism will be truly effective only when leaders submit themselves to the Holy Spirit and make Him the ultimate leader of any church in this age. The mention of Holy Spirit, His gifts and operations, makes most leaders in UBF uncomfortable and (unnecessarily) fearful. We are told “UBF is a place for highly intellectual people. We should not talk about emotional or supernatural things to intellectuals.” It boils down to as long as you teach/preach a person the Bible and bring him to an intellectual greement with the gospel it suffices. Peronally I believe that there is much more to our salvation than an intellectual agreement.

      I had a sharp agreement with one of the prominent Korea UBF leader regarding the Holy Spirit and somehow this triggered my exit from UBF among other reasons. He did not let me preach in a conference that the “living water” Jesus offered in John 4 could be the Holy Spirit, because the mention of Holy Spirit “would create confusion to the audience!”

      As per “fishing” and “multiplication” is concerned, no wife bears child on her own without spending intimate moments with her husband. So also our ability to multiply and make disciples. The Holy Spirit is not the “doer” but “helper.” He likes to help if we reconginze and take the intiative to do things by seeking His help. So, it is my prayer that someday UBF would give the Holy Spirit the place He deserves in their organizational structure and even recognize and honor the life changing supernatural elements/experiences He brings to a ministry or a person regardless of the inability to explain His works intellectully.

    • Thanks Abraham. Sorry to hear a dispute over a verse where your exegesis is likely correct. This is what the ESV Study Bible says:
      John 4:14 The water that I will give him is the “living water” of v. 10, identified in 7:37–39 as the Holy Spirit dwelling within believers.

    • Abraham Nial
      Abraham Nial

      sorry for the typo. please read as “sharp disagreement.” not a good thing, right?

    • Abraham, I keep seeing so many parallels between me/Toledo and you/India. My Easter report is what sparked my leaving UBF. Specifically in the report I mentioned that I did not receive any word of God from the messages, but that I received a profound, inspiring word of God from a PowerPoint presentation… a presentation all about the Holy Spirit being God. That didn’t go over well at all…

    • Abraham Nial
      Abraham Nial

      Thanks Dr Ben about the ESV quote. Thank God for the possibilities of alternative biblical interpretations to traditional understanding of bible passages. I think of God’s truths as diamonds with many facets and God loves emphasizing different facets for different time and purposes.

      In John 4, I love meeting Jesus as the Christ and our sins being forgiven by a loving and kind Savior who handles delicate issues (sins) of our life with gentleness and much patience. But there is much more to knowing Jesus as my Savior and sins being forgiven or getting involved with a outreach programme. One could be “thirsty” even after knowing Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and a busy life of mission. I repeatedly find the New Testament christianity as “REPENT your sins, BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus, and RECEIVE the Holy Spirit,” in contrast to what we normally preach in the evangelical circle “RECEIVE Jesus.” We can’t receive Jesus because He is not here! But He certainly sent the Holy Spirit to be received by those who pur their faith in Him.
      I find such alternative interpretation of biblical truths very exhilarating and that is one of the reason I keep visiting ubfriends.:) Not necessarily all alternative interpretations however are always true, but we miss out so much if we stick to just one, isn’t it? I would prefer not-so-perfect doctrine with an exhilarating life over perfect doctrine with a boring life.

      And, thanks Brian, we do have some parallels and glory be to God for that.

    • Hi Abraham, whenever I teach John 4, I also associate the living water with the Holy Spirit. Anyway, did you read the book about “The Forgot God, reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit.” by Francis Chan. Good book. Before I was so stress about our bible students coming faithfully to SWS or conferences. But when I realized that its God’s work and its the Holy Spirit that changes people not me or my methods then students began to decide to be faithful themselves. They make personal sacrifices to come to conferences and SWS. I am just amazed and very relieved that God is working in their hearts. You know depending on the Holy Spirit to do his work is really an exhilarating life. The stress is not on my performance but on my faith that God is real and alive and is faithful to his promises. It gives me unspeakable joy.:)

    • Abraham Nial
      Abraham Nial

      Hi Maria, glad to know about how relieving and exhilirating it has been for you when you depend on the Holy Spirit. Comforting to know that you too associate “living water” to the Holy Spirit while teaching John 4.

      Interestingly, there has been some changes in the way John 4 has been dealt in UBF. For example, when I was a young bible student, typically one message of the major conference would be “Jesus, the living water.” In times, it was changed to “Jesus offers the living water.” There is a lot of difference in the plain meaning of the two titles. Personally, I also knew that taking together John 4 & 7, the “living water” refered to the Holy Spirit and sometimes used it as a passing reference in my bible teachings. However, I am yet to come across someone clearly declaring the “living water” in John 4 to be God the Holy Spirit, especially in a UBF conference message. That was my issue with David Kim in one of India ABC.

    • Abraham Nial
      Abraham Nial

      Maria, thanks for recommending Francis Chan’s book. I have not read the book you mentioned, although I have listened to some of Francis’ sermons on youtube. Actually, there are a lot of books in my reading list but you know in India there are not really any Christian book store. Thanks, anyway.

  7. Hi everyone,
    just a short remark:
    In our ministry, we always look for new “fishing” methods. Especially one of our missionaries gives all his heart and creativity to find new ways to reach out to the students. Therefore, in the beginning of each semester, we prepare a table with books and flyers. Some coworkers welcome the students who come out of curiosity, others walk around the campus and give away our flyers. And students respond to this kind of invitation.
    And nowadays the “sheep” bring other “sheep”. That’s wonderful!
    But we also continue with “traditional” methods – inviting compelete strangers in the streets or on campus.
    To invite in residencies is no longer possible. Even young people protect their privacy very much. It is also forbidden to invite in the administration building, where we formerly found many interested students.
    I think, fishing should always remain kind of flexible or dynamic. The most important is to continually share Jesus’ heart for the lost and to seek how to help them.

    As for statistics: When I began my shepherd life, my Bible teacher already told me that, according to common experience, we invite 100, 10 will come, and 1 will stay. But I think, that’s ok. Through our invitation, we give an opportunity to learn God’s word and to meet Jesus. And some students are always thirsty. But are we able to look into their hearts? Are we able to identify the ones who are ready to accept the gospel? No, certainly not. Therefore we just have to invite many, we just have to spread the word of God, like in the parable of the sower in Mark 4. Some seed will fall on good, well prepared, willing soil.
    What we should certainly not do, is to push ourselves to go fishing in a legalistic way, or to push the invited students to come just because we want to see some “fruit” and be regarded (or regard ourselves) as great workers of God. No, the fruit will come, if we just love Jesus, and because we love Jesus, we try to share his grace with the students.

  8. Hi, Joe and all.
    Thanks for the great post and excellent comments. During the last year, once I come out as a pioneer, all these issues became very painful for me. B/c if I do not fish what else should I do? And if I fish, how to do it in the way which will please God, and will be naturally for me myself and the culture?
    I met few issues with fishing in my own experience and some observations.
    First is total distrust to any casual information and so on. We live in the culture of SPAM. Most of students before we came to them already decide to not trust us. They looked at us as at spammers. And this tend is more and more increasing. And many times they are really right. B/c to trust people, strangers which are spending their time and trying to tell them something or invite somewhere is almost unreasonable. And you know, other people whom I met in their efforts to outreach someone usually are Jehovah witnesses, Mormons, ICOC and others cults. They are liars or they are deceived themselves and they surely have unclean motives of preaching. So 1-st thing is that I do respect the right of students to distrust me or to reject me in my efforts to preach them something. 2-nd thing which I see from this issue, that I myself should be very pure in my motives. My preaching and fishing should not be motivate by any human things, but should be motivate by obedience to God’s calling and go out from sharing Jesus’ heart and desire to gain Jesus. I should pray and repent continuously for doing this. Moreover when I’m preaching or teaching the Bible to others I should be sincere and teach only things in which I actually believe that they are supported by Bible. So I should keep my mouth from any lie (2Cor. 3:17). For doing this I myself should study Bible and Christian doctrines diligently, so I really could be sure that what I’m going to say is the Bible truth.
    Second is that I myself actually are going further from students with each year. I’m living in my own world, which is far from them. I love my job, my family, my Bible, my Christian and classical books. I like to resolve some theological problems, discuss issues of Evangelism and so on. But their world is so different from mine. Actually it is getting harder and harder to understand students and to find some contacts points with them. So really often if I even could speak with someone I don’t know how to touch his heart with the word of God. Yes, I could proclaim the Gospel. But how to make it to be living for this people I actually don’t know. When I’m preparing the message for SWS for church I have many things to say, but when I’m going out, to unbelievers – it is like the other world to me.
    Third is related with first and second. I think for students to trust me and for me to understand them the only way is incarnation – to be with them, to live among them. So they could see me in usual atmosphere and I could learn from them. I almost don’t see other method now. When I came here, to Kharkiv from Kyiv, first we began to invite students to church. We reached one who is from Christian background and now he is studying the Bible. Then we became to invite students to café, but almost no one came. And then I almost stop to invite them somewhere. Instead of this tries, sometimes I tried to go in the places where students are and to be there along with them, to read the Bible or some book, listening their talks and to speak with someone time to time. Time to time we have little worship services in campus. I don’t know if this could bring fruits and even if we could do it some long time, b/c it is not easy, I have fulltime job, family issues and church but we trying to do it. I just almost not believe that if I will go fish just time to time it will bring fruits. And the goal is to meet some students which will share the same vision and will join us in this kind ministry. For them it should be easy. Please pray for us.
    Last, I want to add few thoughts about Evangelism generally. Sure I believe that Jesus gave us the Great Commission. Surely we should bring his word to this world. Ancient prophets did it. John the Baptist did it. Our Lord Jesus Christ did it. These days Holy Spirit through the Church should do it. Each of us should participate in this. But the roles of each of us are very different. Someone could fish, someone preach, someone pray, someone serve and so on. Don’t need to make everyone do same things. No! Let each of us find his or her personal gift and serve with it. Other thing is that for fulfilling Jesus’ great commission don’t need to just increase our own organization. We could just preach the Gospel, make some charity, some actions which will influence our society and so on and not just be focused on increasing the numbers. I believe this means to be source of blessing.
    And the very last thing which I want to emphasize is that difficulties of these days Evangelism and even our disappointment should not stop us from it. On the contrary, if to reach people in our days is so difficult we should more suffer for reaching them (may God be merciful to this sinner). Let me explain. When ancient prophets preached the word of God, very often no one listened and repented. But they did not stop. They increased their suffers. One of them was bringing a burden, other one was walking naked and so on. I don’t mean just to double efforts, not at all. But to be eager in prayer and be ready to suffer.
    I’m really sorry for such a long comment and thanks if you read till this very point.
    God bless!

  9. By the way, my first comment about statistics and Jesus’ 15.3% fishing “batting average” was supposed to be an inside joke to Joe. I don’t seriously believe anything I said there. It was supposed to be a “funny.” Just to be clear on that to everyone else since my sister reminds me that my jokes always flop.

    Also, my second comment about assumptions c) and d) were not that I totally agree with them, but that they are mere examples how I can re-interpret questionable UBF assertions in my mind to be more acceptable theologically. Ben, that is why I didn’t say that in a) that it IS a problem, but only that it MIGHT BE — because we just don’t know the reason sometimes. Maybe they are confused. Maybe they are prayerfully and wisely waiting for a new direction. Or maybe they truly are unfaithful and lazy. Or maybe not. As Joe says, we just simply don’t know unless we ask.

  10. Joshua Brinkerhoff

    Hi everyone. Thanks for the discussion. A few years ago, I read the book called “Emerging Hope” by Jimmy Long for a staff conference. That book revolutionized my “fishing ministry”. Before, I walked around carrying my big study Bible, trying to single out students to invite them to Bible study and–if possible–give them a “one word” from the big Bible. I look back at myself and cringe! After reading Jimmy Long’s book, I decided to go fishing for friends instead of “sheep”. I stopped bringing my Bible, stopped walking around, and stopped trying to plant “one word” like a kind of precision-guided missile. Instead, I began to sit down, hopefully near someone, and begin a conversation. I ask what they study, why they chose that, what plans they have for the future, where they’re from, etc. After about 10 minutes, almost always the conversation turns to something personal or meaningful in their life. I found that by listening and asking questions sincerely, most people really open their hearts and begin sharing deeply what is in their life. At some point, they want to know about me, and I let them know I’m a doctoral student, a husband, a father for two girls, etc. — and also, I’m a Christian and this is what Christ has done in my life. The relationship evolves very naturally, a small amount of trust is established, and the student can see I’m a real person. Maybe one in three will agree to meet again to talk more and perhaps look at the Bible together. With this approach, I meet a lot fewer people, but I make some interesting friends on campus who I see from time to time, and a few have come to be a part of our ministry. I guess the difference that Jimmy Long’s book brought was focusing more on befriending an individual than finding a candidate for discipleship. God bless you all!

  11. Hannah Love

    This is a great post.
    This 0.3% will definitely differ from ministry to ministry.
    I know that, in the ministry I’ve grown up in, fishing isn’t what helped our ministry grow.
    We’ve tried all these different tactics, but when our leaders began to submit everything to the Lord, throw off UBF goggles and cloaks, and admit their wrongs, our ministry began to grow. The changes in the past 2 years encourage me and I believe that the Holy Spirit will continue to do so. When I read the Word without any agenda, God really speaks and guides us in the way He wants us to go.

    I loved all the examples you provided from the book of Acts. Without remembering what God did when Christianity first began, I think we’ll keep trying to do ministry by our own ideas and efforts.
    From what I’ve seen and learned, the Church in Acts grew by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
    In Acts 8, Philip meets an Ethiopian man by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
    Like it says in Acts 1:8, maybe we’ve misinterpreted the word “WILL” as being a command rather than a promise. The greek term for this WILL or SHALL is esomai which means “shall come to pass” which appears to be more of a promise than a command.

    Ok, this may be off-topic for a bit but I promise to connect it.
    This past weekend I was asked to share a message on Acts 13:4-52. Before writing the message I was advised to remember and focus on the overall meaning of the message which was about Paul’s mission to the Gentile and how he was the light for the Gentiles. I kept this in mind, but kept reading and praying for a personal revelation from the Lord.
    The more I read this passage, the more I realized that this passage’s focus isn’t about Paul’s mission but the actual message that Paul preached (forgiveness in v38,39). After I finished writing, I decided to see how other UBF ministries wrote their messages on this same passage. I don’t know if I read them wrong, but the three that I found were almost identical and there were even some sentences that were exactly the same. The three had the same message and same conclusions. As you said in your 3rd point, Paul’s focus was about the GOSPEL itself and living to please the Lord.
    I shared this because I think its important that we read the Word without any motives of what we want to share. We need to read the Word with God’s heart, not with a UBF agenda. I realize the line may be blurry between UBF’s agenda and what we claim the Bible is telling us to do.

    I am aware that fishing is a way of reaching out to students, but to heavily emphasize it as the best and/or only way to go about evangelizing can be problematic. However, at different meetings or through messages they will emphasize it.

    As a second gen, this was a haunting task. I felt inadequate because I didn’t want to go fishing. I never felt an urge to go fishing. With this, it was assumed that I had no heart for students or people. I know that I placed this requirement upon myself but at the same time I can’t ignore the times that I was made to feel guilty when I didn’t go.

    Mark 1:17. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
    Command: Follow Jesus. Promise: He will make us fishers of men. It isn’t the other way around.
    This brought so much peace to me because I felt confident that if I simply and followed Jesus with a commitment to being ONE with Him, then He promises to make me a fisher of men. Not by my methods, but by HIS methods.

    Thank you for this. ” Inspiration (in-Spir[it]-ation) is what the Holy Spirit does.”
    I am prying myself away from believing lies that I am lazy and disobedient. These ARE true about me, but I don’t want to declare them as my identity. Though I am a sinner, I can confidently say that I have the Holy Spirit within me who will guide my ways and life in the way that will bring glory to the Lord.

    I agree with your conclusion. If we continue to hold onto what worked 50 years ago, after sometime, what we do may end up being extinct because it is no longer new, but old. I don’t know how else to say it. It’s like how everyone is finding ways to stay younger and remain youthful because the reality is that as you get older, the closer to death you are. With human beings, we can’t (not yet) reverse age and give youth to someone, but with a ministry and with the Church (the body of Christ) we can do this! (Does this make sense??)

    • Hannah Love

      Jon Foreman, the lead singer for Switchfoot, mentions some things that I find relevant to this topic.

      Unfortunately, unity within the ecclesial community is the exception, not the rule. It’s to our shame many folks looking for hope find more grace at the local bar than the local church. When we speak with a fire and anger that burns differently than the fresh air of the cross, we do the Gospel a disservice. We know deep down something is wrong. So we revolt against those fiery speeches. We say the method needs to change. We call the old model irrelevant. And yes! The fresh winds of the Spirit are ready to blow upon us, let us pray for new tongues of the same eternal flame.

  12. Hannah what a great discussion topic! It was such a great read. But there some fallacies and slanting biases. I also had difficulties with Fishing. As a second gen I feel you. I felt guilty whenever I heard other people going fishing 3 times week but I did not. But this was not because someone told me I was a sinner, but it was self-imposed. I felt that UBF methods were outdated and “unfruitful” and we were just following UBF traditions instead of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yes, our ministry isn’t perfect, no ministry is. There are always problems in the church. Even in the book of Acts, they were many problems in the church. But UBF is predominately an campus evangelical ministry and fishing was the primary method to inviting students to know of Christ and become disciples.

    For the last 49 years UBF ministry has sent 1500+ missionaries to 90+ countries all around the world following the divine mandate to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. If you look at the bigger picture, we are still growing and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can talk about different methods and evolving to appeal to the new generation. But the important thing isn’t method, it is following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Each person is given a gift from God as explained in Corinthians.

    If we are talking about statistics my personal fishing stats. Approx. 300 met. I got about 30 names and out of the 30 I am currently serving 4 bible students. 4/300 is like 1%. But isn’t 1% still worth it? God does great things with one man. One man Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Elijah, John the Baptist, Apostle Paul etc… We should never say just because its only 0.3% that it is not worth it. YES IT IS! We are not like churches that focus on mass attendance.

    I personally believe that statistics or how many members you have in a church does not define the “fruitfulness” of a church. UBF has always focused on raising disciples of Jesus and that is a key quality that we have. We focus on quality not quantity.

    My conclusion is that fishing is still useful today. Most of the growing disciples are here today because of the diligent fishing ministry by missionaries and shepherds. But we should also be open to new methods to spreading the gospel. As Jose Ahn told me, “It is not the method that is important as long as the gospel is preached as long as the words of God are not altered.” I have had success with Fishing ministry so I will say that it does work.

    Hannah, get back to me on this. I am very interested in this discussion.

  13. Oh my apologizes. This was originally written by Dr. Joe.
    Joe please respond! I am very interesting in this topic :)

    • Hi Paul,

      I fundamentally agree with you on many levels.

      If you feel called to go fishing and it works for you, that’s wonderful. Thank God for that.

      And I agree that the fruitfulness of a ministry is not measured primarily (or even secondarily) in terms of numbers of disciples, but in the quality of Christian character, the actual fruits of the Spirit. I can find no precedent in the New Testament for praying for specific numbers of disciples. Numeric growth happens organically when we focus on the essentials of being the Church, as in Acts 2:42-47.

      But please allow me to pester you with a few questions, because I’m a bit puzzled by certain things that you wrote.

      1. You said that “we focus on quality not quantity.” Yet it is a longstanding tradition in UBF to pray for numbers. Most of the major prayer topics (e.g., double the ministry by 2010) are numeric. Many newcomers to UBF are surprised by how much we do seem to be driven by numbers, and many critics say that we are numbers-driven. How do you feel about this? Should we stop praying for numbers and more explicitly pray for quality?

      2. You said that UBF is still predominantly a ministry of campus evangelism. Our website and literature says that we are. But by my count, in most chapters, university students are a minority. The reality is that we have become a multigenerational faith community. Campus evangelism is great, but do you think that a heavy focus on campus ministry can really sustain the spiritual health and growth of the members of a multigenerational faith community over the long term?

      3. You said “If you look at the bigger picture, we are still growing and this is the work of the Holy Spirit.” But from what I have seen, UBF membership in the United States isn’t growing very much. New members are coming in through outreach, birth, and influx of missionaries, but that increase is nearly offset by people leaving. Are you talking numeric growth, or some other kind of growth?

      4. Related to 3, you said “this is the work of the Holy Spirit.” I’m curious how you know this. Are you assuming that the Holy Spirit is automatically working through us in all of our efforts, whatever we do? Or have you seen clear supernatural force that goes beyond human effort? One of the main reasons that I wrote the article was to challenge the automatic assumption that we are working with and relying on the Holy Spirit. Francis Chan is correct. I don’t think that this is a safe assumption for UBF or any other church or ministry to make. And, honestly, I now believe that a lot of my own ministry activity over the years was primarily my own effort and not Spirit-driven. Honestly, many of my efforts to disciple students involved a great deal more of appealing to my own knowledge, leadership style, human encouragements, etc. than genuine submission and reliance on the Spirit.

      I don’t mean to give you a hard time here. But ministry leaders (and I consider you a potential leader) have to ask the probing, difficult questions about what we are doing and why.

    • Hannah Love

      Hi Paul. I shared with you earlier.

      I think just because UBF has been a campus ministry doesn’t mean it always will be and should be. I feel that it is expanding to so many different kinds of people and the people born into it shouldn’t have to call their church UBF. As Joe mentioned, it has definitely become a multigenerational environment.
      Is it a church or is it an organization?
      It was an odd experience as a kid telling my friends that I went to UBF. What’s UBF? UNIVERSITY Bible Fellowship. But you’re not in university. Yea I know. Uhhh.. OK.
      Also heavily depending on past methods for TODAY doesn’t always work.

      If you study the book of Acts, when they depended solely on the Holy Spirit, the church grew like CRAZY. It happens these days too. I’m not saying we need to grow in numbers, but at the same time UBF’s talks about numbers a LOT. Double ministry. 120 sheep. 12 Abraham’s of Faith. 50 1:1s. They set goals for conferences and each year to grow in a specific numerical way. So we want to increase but depend on our own methods. There’s a problem here. We talk about the Holy Spirit, but until you’ve had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, you’re still gonna talk about the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about the supernatural, real manifestation of the Spirit in a person.

      Growing up I didn’t even know what the heck the HOly Spirit was or who He is. Rarely would we discuss Him. Who is He? Do we really allow Him to work?

      I realize this is a whole different topic, but in the Red Tractor video this is what Francis Chan is talking about, right? Unlearn and relearn. Start over rather than accepting what we’ve done as the way to keep going.

      I’m wondering if we should be settling for 0.3% when so much more could be done! Yes, we must sow the seeds, we must love and love without anything in return, but at the same time The Holy Spirit is capable of doing SO much more. As soldiers of Christ, as the bride of Christ, shouldn’t we anticipate more so that we can glorify our Father? I don’t know.

  14. As one who has been in UBF for 13 years, in both a large chapter as well as my current small chapter, there continues to be an emphasis on numbers and quantity over quality. For example, I don’t understand why we are asked to report the number of our one-to-one’s each week. In the past, such reports made me feel competitive, proud or inferior depending on how many one-to-one’s I had compared to another. I realize that such feelings exposes my sinful nature in wanting to glorify myself in serving God, but isn’t the system we have also flawed in emphasizing numbers over other things? Instead of asking how many Bible studies we have each week, why not share prayer topics about our Bible students? Of course, each fellowship share their students’ prayer topics in different ways but I think like Joe said, we need to ask these difficult questions regarding why we do the things we do. As a young Christian, i was taught that fishing and teaching the Bible was THE WAY in which we serve God and raise disciples. All other services were relegated as less important compared to these. But I am coming to the realization that as disciples of Jesus, we serve in many ways. Some through fishing and teaching the Bible. Some through other services that God has gifted and called them too. I cannot assume for any person that to be a disciple or disciple maker means we engage in “fishing and 1:1 Bible study”. I think since our church is composed of predominately a non-student population, we should support and encourage discipleship beyond the campus evangelism paradigm. Otherwise, people like myself (who are in a different phases of life) will find themselves more marginalized from the church.

  15. Thanks for everyone’s frank and open comments!

    Surely, “fishing” is not bad or wrong since Jesus used the words “fishers of men” (old NIV), “fish for people” (new NIV, Mark 1:17), “catch men” “fish for people” (old, new NIV; Luke 5:11), and “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). BUT the problems I have with the way we use and emphasize “fishing” is unhealthy, if not unbiblical. It also takes away our joy and delight of Jesus, the lover of our soul. Why?

    “Fishing” has become a ubf way of “measuring” our spiritual condition.

    Whether we “fish” or not becomes the measure of our worth as a Christian.

    Fishing has become a means of praise, recognition, applause from our leaders. So that sometimes it seems that the only good ubf person is one who goes fishing. And one who doesn’t is “lazy,” etc.

    Fishing is regarded as “better” than other aspects of life, such as socail justice, acts of mercy, being a Christ like influence at work, a good school teacher, a good nurse, etc.

    Fishing enslaves us to a system of legalism; it enslaves us to a methodology; it enslaves us to our leaders who “evaluate” others based on fishing and other outward “legalistic” criteria, usually based on outward performance, such as testimony writing, attending meetings, conferences faithfully, being outwardly compliant to directives, etc.

    However, the main problem I have is that Jesus, grace, the gospel, the cross, is no longer the practical central tenat of our Christian faith that moves our hearts to tears of gratitude. Rather, some outward legalistic distinctive such as fishing becomes emphasized. Jesus just becomes assumed, and fishing and other legalistic outward distinctives becomes the measure and criteria of our worth as a Christian.

    • Ben, aren’t you overstating it a bit? I agree that what you say about fishing (e.g., being used as a measure of our spiritual condition) does happen. But some of the other comments above demonstrate that there are some people in our ministry who do it in freedom as a response to the gospel of grace. How many do it for the right reasons? How many do it for the wrong reasons? How many have mixed motives? God knows, and we do not. My wife has done it quite a lot. She is good at it and doesn’t mind. Knowing her as I do, I tend to think that her motives in doing it over the years have been mostly gospel-centered. Fishing does not enslave people, and not fishing doesn’t free anyone. Sin enslaves, Jesus frees.

  16. Yup, Joe. I did overstate my case. :-) Your statement that fishing or not fishing does not enslave us, and that only sin enslaves us, and only Jesus frees us is surely the most mysterious and glorious truth and the very gist of Christianity.

    Perhaps, based on my own experience, I’ve felt (subjectively) the ugliness of fishing and outward fruitfulness as a “badge of righteousness” and of being regarded as an “exemplary ubf person.”
    Such a sentiment, no matter how subtle, just sucks the very grace out of what makes Christianity marvellous and majestic, leaving only deadly legalism, moralism, outward conformity, and Pharisaism.

    But yes, I did overstate my case, for like Sharon, I do know many lovely people who fish only because they love Jesus, and not to get any outward praise or recognition or star on the chart.

    • actually, just to clarify, i have definitely also been motivated by the “stars on my chart”. thanks for the kind words, but i have found myself to be a very ugly person but for the grace of Jesus.

    • Sharon, you are not an ugly person. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Even if you are having a bad-hair day, I can’t stop admiring you. You have been teaching me so much, and I love you more than anything in this world.

  17. First of all i want to say, I am thankful for this website and the platform it provides for open discussion. I truly believe that when we share honestly with love and respect keeping Christ at the center, we are building on a community of love. 2nd of all, in response to this article, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed watching the video clip of “The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village”. A cord was struck in my heart that challeneged my view of how the Holy Spirit works in ministry. If we were to take away certain leaders, certain methods, certain traditions such as fishing, etc., is there still going to be that mysterious work of the Holy Spirit among us? Or will the church suddenly stop? As St. Peter puts it, “For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men: you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38b) I for one believe fishing is a great tool but only God knows whether we do it for His glory or not. The outcome is also in God’s hands. As a young christian I had a strong desire to please God. Fishing for students on campus was one way to please God based on Jesus words, “I will make you fishers of men”…”If you love me feed my sheep.” Actually Dr. Ben himself encouraged this during our prayer meetings and he even said, that if we didn’t serve a certain amount of sheep we were not pleasing God. Of course, Dr. Ben changed alot since then, but honestly speaking, I needed that push of encouragement to actually go out on campus, overcoming my selfishness and God did bless it because despite the percentage of people actually growing as disciples, I came to know God who is Almighty God and my faith grew in Him. So it wasn’t so much as the results of my fishing but it was more how the Holy Spirit began to work in my life. Of course, I am still a working progress but I am thankful for oppurtunities to go fishing or just talking to a stranger.

  18. What Joe said in tender response to Sharon must surely be one of the many highlights of this website, because the marvellous grace of Jesus is shining ever so brightly and clearly!

    May Jesus’ mercy and grace dominate this website with transparency and authenticity, and be the driving force, the power of God, behind our practical daily Christian lives as well.

  19. Joe!

    I just wanted to say I really appreciate this discussion. It’s so raw and honest.

    I need let the Holy Spirit govern my life, my action and my thoughts.
    There are times when I serve God with real sincerity and thankfulness and yet there are times when I feel like I’m caught in a loop. Sometimes it’s not love or grace that compels me to do works for God, but its a sense of duty or responsibility as a bible teacher and a member of the church.

    The one thing that has been bothering me for awhile is the concept of the Holy Spirit. In UBF we talk a lot about the works of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit. But not so much on who the Holy Spirit really is and what he is capable of. The Holy Spirit is capable of great things, and Jesus even said in Jn 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

    I just wish to be more knowledgeable about the Holy Spirit and experience the work of the Holy Spirit first hand. Yes, I have definitely experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in my life several times, especially with serving 4 bible students and also my engagement story. But I feel like the Holy Spirit is capable of so much more. Do you feel the same way?

    If you have any expertise or wisdom you can share with me about the Holy Spirit please let me know! I am very interested in learning!

    • I hear you, Paul. A friend quipped to me that we Christians believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Bible.

    • Hi Paul,
      Thank you for your generous and helpful reply. Earlier this year, I did a lot of Bible study and reading about the Holy Spirit, but I can’t say that I know much. I did write several articles on the topic at
      I would love to have some good articles and discussion about the work of the Holy Spirit on UBFriends.
      Perhaps you can write an article about your experiences?

  20. Hi Joe. Thanks for the exhilarating post. I just want to make a quick comment on the issue of the Holy Spirit. First, the HS is the spirit of God. In Genesis 1:1&2 the person of God is transcendental (Elohim). He is eternal and he is beyond our human understanding. Verse 2 says, “the spirit of God was hovering” over the the face of the waters. This spirit of God is same as the Holy Spirit. In Genesis 2, the name of God changes to the LORD God (YAHWEH), meaning Elohim with us. One good example is the “pillar of cloud” above Israel’s camp in the wilderness. The spirit of God prevailing with men was the constant of all the writings in the ancient (OT). The spirit of God was with Jesus; and Jesus left the same spirit of God with us when he ascended to heaven. This same spirit of God comes and lives in us the moment we believe in Jesus.I hope this make sense.

  21. Fascinating that this has turned into a discussion about the Holy Spirit. Our lack of knowledge on the Spirit is reflected in the paucity of theological literature on the Spirit. We’re not alone! Nevertheless, there are two excellent meditations on the Holy Spirit, quotes from which I’d like to share here (I’m not quite ready to share my own thoughts at this point).

    One of the best books I’ve read on the Holy Spirit is called “The Witness of the Spirit” by Bernard Ramm. Kind of an old one, but the best short one I’ve read. He employs a helpful analogy:

    “There are two hands on the sword: for we take the sword, and yet, since it is the Sword of the Spirit, his hand is also on the hilt. We are not to use this sword by ourselves, on our own authority, and by our own sovereignty. We are to be completely sensitive to the pressure of the Spirit’s hand in ours. Unless the Spirit wields the sword, we shall use it to no avail.”

    John Owen wrote a treatise on the Holy Spirt in the 17th century, which is equally good. He said,

    “We are enabled to obey God firstly by an inward, spiritual, ruling principle of grace … by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ according to the terms of the new covenant… by which God writes his laws in our hearts and enables us to obey them by the Holy Spirit…”

    Hope this sheds some light on the mysterious work of the third Person in the Trinity.

  22. As a former member of UBF, and now the english pastor of a Korean Evangelical Covenant Church (I must love those koreans I guess!), I am very interested in this discussion. My experience outside of UBF has shown me a number of things that I could not see while I was there. Perhaps most glaringly, the utter lack of evangelistic zeal in most American churches, in comparison with the missionaries and shepherds at the Chicago center (perhaps only the ministry of Jews For Jesus matches the amount of energy of UBFers this this regard). Regardless of the percentage, at least people at UBF are trying to do SOMETHING to reach unbelievers. That being said, I always had grave issues with the methodology of the shepherd-sheep relationship, which in many ways I think hurts the long term prospects of a committed “sheep”. UBF “shepherds” sometimes might need to be reminded that they are not the mouthpiece of God. Not to mention the explicit command from James that not everyone should be teachers, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly…” -James3:1 What does the UBFer do what that verse when EVERYONE is encouraged by the leadership to teach One to One Bible Study!?! In my humble opinion, that right there is one of the biggest issues within UBF. There are some people teaching the Bible who should NOT be teaching the Bible (I honestly think that the lack of accountablity in this regard has led to the majority of abuse claims by people who left the church)!

    Also there is what I might call the tactical targeting of mostly young white students, the more handsome or pretty the better (at least thats how it used to be)! I actually remember fishing on a campus with a very respected shepherd and I was about to approach a black student to ask him to Bible study, and the shepherd I was with said, “No, no, thats a garbage sheep!” Other “garbage sheep” were the disabled or strange looking non white people. Perhaps if there was not a “garbage sheep” mentality, the percentage would increase exponentially! Imagine a church full of “garbage sheep”, now wouldn’t that be a New Testament Church! Also, on a side note, I was always shocked that as close as the Chicago Center is to the most culturally diverse area of Chicago, about two blocks away, I NEVER heard of anyone going fishing on Devon street, Ever. Perhaps the reasoning was because the people there are not college students, but that is completely faulty, I personally know for a fact that there are many students in that area, so it has always thrown me for a loop that as zealous as UBF is for raising disciples, could it be that one of the reasons the percentage is so low is who they are and are NOT targeting?

  23. Welcome, David, and thanks so much for your insightful and helpful comments. Discussions about some of these very issues you raised are going on within UBF to varying degrees. Please pray for us, expecially for our leaders, at this critical time of transition, to be wise and godly. In my (not so extensive) study of evangelistic movements and revivals, I saw that every great movement of the Holy Spirit happened among sinful people with huge blind spots, and every revival in Christian history seems to have been accompanied by excesses and problems that needed to be corrected in the second generation. That’s not an excuse; it’s just an observation. We need help from people like you who are willing to not write us off because of our mistakes, but to offer constructive suggestions in a genuine spirit of love and compassion. Thanks again, and we look forward to dialoguing with you. Your comments are most welcome.

    • BTW, David, the thought of someone representing Christ making that “garbage sheep” comment truly sickens me and makes me angry. We ought to be much better than that.

  24. Yongha Lee

    My sincere apologies to you, David, for that “garbage sheep” comment which I hope represents only few. But I can’t help but think the comment hit it right on our subculture or wrong motivation. I’m angry at the comment frankly then I must confess, that is exactly what I have been dreaming of – looking selectively for white, photogenic, academically good students from top ranked colleges. Aren’t we praying to raise up PhD professors and shepherds? Elitism seems rooted deeply among us. I can’t speak for others but I confess my wrong. Maybe I was driven, or mislead, by our subculture or whatever, but how can I blame others. It is my own problem – I was, and am, not strong enough to hold to the “gospel”; my grip on the gospel was, and is, so weak and loose. As a result, intentionally or unintentionally I fell and stumbled. I was zealous in pursuit of other business stuffs, success in ministry, praises from church. It is a damning hypocrisy. Pease know that we are humbly struggling to do right and correct, so please pray for us. I wish you the very best in your ministry in Korea. Good to know you love Koreans. God bless you.

  25. Thanks Joe, I think that there are some really great things going on at UBF, not the least of which, it is the church where Christ saved me! I am really glad for people like you and others I know, that seem to be a type of Luther or Malanchthon for UBF…bring on the Reformation brother!!! I believe that with some difficult changes, UBF could do some really amazing things with God’s help, because there are certainly passionate believers there. I know my opinion does not count for much, since there were some very angry people when I left, but here are some suggestions that I had to help the ministry in no particular order: 1) Institute some sort of mandatory Bible training class in order to train leaders. 2) Ditch honorific titles like “shepherd” or “missionary”. 3)Clarify what “May America be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” actually means since it is the official Mantra of the church and I have not met anyone who knows why they say it all the time, or what its meaning is theologically. 4)acknowlege people who are adults (not students) as equally valuable members of the church. 5)Encourage dont Discourage people with pastoral calling from going to seminary, and work with local seminaries and other churches to build relationships (I know this has been happening more and I am so glad that Pastor Ron graduated from Wheaton, thats awesome). 6)Try to lose the robotic, crazy sounding speech patterns…(Helllooooooo shepherrrd, how are youuuu?) including words that outsiders have no idea what they mean eg. “Holy Nation Woman” “Marriage Problem” “Hallelujah Christians” etc. Especially that last one is extraordinarily offensive in its UBF context…shouldnt we ALL be “Hallelujah Christians”? 7) Perhaps most of all, focus much less on “mission” and much more on the GOSPEL! Now that I look back after being gone from UBF for about 5 years I can clearly see that there is a strong undercurrent of works righteousness that pervades very much of what I experienced there! Before “shepherds” go out and do something they MUST have the foundation of what Christ has already DONE! I know that the Bible is preached at UBF, but I rarely if ever heard about Justification or Propitiation or Sanctification and what those words mean to my life. It was mostly “Jesus says ‘become fishers of meeeennn! How many one to ones have you had this week Shepherd David?’ That is a wrong emphasis! One to ones mean nothing if the Gospel is secondary to the Mission, and Salvation secondary to numbers. Just a few ideas, I will try to think of more and get back to y’all. It is good to see some old names on here, I miss alot of you and I hope that you are all doing well in the Lord. Heartily Yours, David

  26. Dear Yongha, Thanks for your comments, I am glad to see that there is a spirit of change within UBF right now. Great stuff brother, oh and my church is a Korean church in Glenview, Illinois…but who knows, maybe I will head out to Korea someday!! I will just have to convince my wife to eat more Kimchee!

  27. Thanks, Dave, for jumping in with us. I virtually agree with all of your suggestions and proposals, especially #7 and #4. I think a few people are beginning to realize and articulate some of our highly offensive and misguided traits. To my inexcusable shame and sorrow, I used to refer to some as “junk sheep,” or “paddie sheep,” which means I “pad” the number of people who came from my fellowship. I cringe now recounting this, and I am highly offended and embarrassed and angered and sickened by myself!

    But on a fundamental practical level, I’ve repeatedly said that “the problem is not that we can’t resolve these horrible issues, but that we can’t really address them.” You can address them, but you will be misunderstood, marginalized, and maligned, at least subtly. This is so because of our glaringly deep elitist blind spot of “hierarchy” and “autocracy” and “sense of honor.” John Stott’s book “Calling Christian Leaders” touches on this almost universal problem in the church, according to Stott. This is what I briefly touched on in an earlier blog:

  28. Hi, guys. I was referred to this site by my friend Josh B. I really liked reading a lost of these articles and comments and this is what I’ve been looking for a long time now. awesome. I just wanted to comment on this article.

    First of all, I’m a second-gen “missionary”, and I’ve pretty much participated, seen, heard, witnessed, and felt everything at our church and lots of other chapters as well.

    Personally, I too have felt that our chapters tend to have a “business-like model” when it comes to church, in general. It’s like we need to meet a quota for the month or the boss isn’t gonna be happy. I’ve always thought about this, and have written about it alot in my journal because I’m just not “down” with this (as in I don’t completely agree with this mindset). Please hear me out.

    We should want to bring more people to church because WE GENUINELY WANT TO. Have you ever had that feeling when you’ve experienced something so amazing YOU JUST HAD TO TELL SOMEONE? That passion, that energy that just makes people go “Wow, I wanna be apart of THAT!”.

    I don’t know for sure, but I think that’s the sort of thing that inspires people to CHANGE. To leave their destructive habits of sin and to pursue a new, better life. Being born again, striving to become the best Christian they can be. Slightly off topic but, I strongly feel that it’s essential to always GROW as a Christian. A stagnant Chrisitan that isn’t growing does not bless others with that raw inspiration and excitement.

    I actually have a really cool vision of Christian churches adopting a “self-help” kind of structure to their ministries. We need more practical advice, support and community. Let me give you an example of what I mean…

    A few weeks ago, our church studied a passage on meditating on God’s word DAY AND NIGHT; so that we can grow rooted deeply in God’s word and GROW (as a stronger Christian). I started this cool chart I placed on the wall of my bedroom. How it works is basically, I drew a seed on the poster that represented my growth in a certain area of my life, and every day I meditated, worked on, prayed about that area in my life I would make 1 small line. By doing that every day consistently, I’ll have a nice tree drawn up in about a year that represents how consistent and all that growth I’ve made as a Christian.

    The progress that can be made by consistently growing as a Christian, and as a better PERSON in general is my humble interpretation of what “bearing fruit” is. And I believe that all that growth and passion about growing in Jesus and doing whatever it takes (like setting aside negative habits, and old belief systems); that’s the stuff that automatically inspires random people to say: “I want that in my life. I want to be a better human being”. Which leads them into meeting Jesus.

    Hope you guys enjoyed reading that. I’m glad I found this community because I like these articles and I love sharing my insights; hope I can continue to keep doing so. now i’m off to bed; see ya


    • Hannah Love

      James Lee! the one that was with us in Waterloo? So good to see you on here.

      I feel that this article opens up so many ideas and topics we are all curious about.
      The biggest one being the Holy Spirit.
      I guess we can think of so many different ideas and how to reach out and evangelize, but without the Holy Spirit we’re doomed.
      I love the book of Acts. I realized that I need to learn about the ACTS of the Holy Spirit and trust that God will work that way today rather than look at the acts of the HUMANS at that time. Everything they did was by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.

      Maybe we’ll need to have a whole new thread on this alone. Without the Holy Spirit we will just become bloated Christians with so much knowledge from Bible study and messages.

    • Hannah, your comment on the book of Acts is really spot-on. We are studying Acts right now with the aim to learn more about the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. And i have to say that it is a very difficult and very challenging book. But our study has been very rewarding so far.

    • Hey Hannah, nice seeing you here in this virtual-reality meeting space too. haha. How was your trip? That’s probably old news now, but Korea never really lets you down, eh?

      So, I was thinking about what you wrote and I wondered whether the early church even knew WHO, or WHAT the Holy Spirit was (is)? Or if the typical evangelized dude was even CONSCIOUSLY AWARE that he was being used by the Holy Spirit to help the early church grow in massive numbers?

      They were probably just so thrilled with having the Gospel, you know. Something like a new medical discovery maybe. It was as if now, regular human beings can FINALLY have a relationship with God, despite their sins. Like, “I CAN FINALLY HAVE A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD NOW? THIS IS SWEEEET”. You know, just that excitement; and they tell everyone they know.

      I strongly believe that personal development in God is the most essential part of anyone’s life. That’s the main focus for me anyway, to follow Jesus, and to always GROW as a Christian, every day, you know. Because not only is that the ultimate thing in life, period…but, it inspires you to genuinely want to spread the gospel. And I think people our age value authenticity.

      I agree with the overflow of knowledge from Bible Study and messages. I find that a lot of people, including myself, are FLOODED with new concepts, new ideas every Sunday. They just don’t know how to deal with all this information at once, and can’t apply what they learned to their personal lives. That’s why you see a lot of stagnant Christians. I’m starting to change that though in my life, and I actually started practically applying things every day to the best of my ability. So hopefully the things I learn “stick”, and gradually my habits change, etc.

      Anyway, I’m off to class, gonna ace this Business exam hopefully!!


  29. Wow. This is a very honest article Joe. I could feel your agony through your words. Missionaries do indeed get spread thin. I am glad you are finding strategies to improve your relationship with Christ.

    Many biblical figures were said to constantly be filled with the Holy Spirit. Why? Because they leaked for a variety of reasons. Taking a step back seems like a great idea for growing deeper in a relationship with Christ. Jesus often took time away from his disciples to pray by himself. I hope that you will find your refuge in the wounds of his sacred heart. You will be in my prayers.

  30. I wanted to say one last thing on this thread, and it is that God saved me when I was a university student, in a sense despite UBF. Not that UBF is “bad” but I am just saying that as a white American young man, there was not much that appealed to me culturally. I did indeed feel loved however, (I remember the SECOND time I ever stepped into the Chicago Center,Pastor Ron shook my hand and he remembered my name from the week before. That really impressed me). My point is not that UBF should become some watered down, seeker-sensitive church, but rather, relating to the newcomers in language and style that they can understand actually matters.

    I know that this would be an incredibly hard thing to change at UBF in particular because the unique culture and style there is so ingrained, but I think that ya’ll should at least be open to change that stuff. The thing that really matters is the Gospel, everything other than that is secondary should be ready to be discarded if it doesnt work or is a stumbling block to salvation. I even think that One to One Bible studies should be thought of as secondary in terms of their format, why not small groups sometimes? etc.

    • Mark Mederich

      i think the point of cultures for all humans is to share them without imposing; likewise i think the point of Christianity is seeking Christ together without imposing systems/hierarchies..

  31. Hi David L. I haven’t been checking UBFriends because of internet problems and working on a busy new ministry. You made a comment about no one goes fishing at Devon street. Actually John and Damon L. went fishing there and fished TKW who was a short, chinese lady with three children. She was a Buddist. Actually she was looking for a church because she felt like her children needed to know God. So the week before she went to a Lithuinian church but they only spoke Lithuinian so she couldn’t stay. But after she was fished she began to study the Bible. Through UBF she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Her husband is an African American man and through her prayers he is now growing in the Lord. They are not white student disciples but they are such a precious brother and sister to me. They are indispensable coworkers in Chicago UBF now. I believe God uses our fishing ministry. Phil 1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Like Sharon and my sister Elena we have a knack for fishing and we love it. But for others it may not be for them. Fishing may not be for everyone but sharing the gospel is always good. Let’s keep doing it:)

  32. Joshua Yoon

    Wow! So many thoughtful writings! It took long to read all. Our chapter is also studying Acts. I was greatly inspired and encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit through the obedience of the apostles. I myself used to go “fishing” ( By the way these days we hardly use this term along with shepherd in our local chapter so most students would not understand if they hear someone from another chapter say, “Shepherd A fished B.” One student from our chaper thought that someone actually went to catch fish at university late when he heard someone talking about fishing at the summer conferece with other chapters.) God used my “fishing” for brining many people to Christ. But I find it getting harder to go fishing traditionally with widening age gap and with increasing responsibilities as a director and with shifting focus on different aspects of life and ministry as a Christian, a citizen and a member of larger body of Christ. As Joe said, many things demand our attention and time commitment. Even visiting UBFriends can be time consuming. Some people may say that we are idling our precious time away instead of doing God’s work and going “fishing.” But God is doing a beautiful thing in this cyber community through the words of encouragement and challenge. I believe this site was created by the urge of the Holy Spirit. We should not limit God’s work to only certain methodologies and ways. God’s work can be done in a way we might never imagine. We should be sensitive to the guidence of the Spirit. If the Spirit put an urge in us to reach out to strangers through traditional fishing, we should obey Him. If the Spirit leads us to use new ways for outreach ministry, we should be willing to be open to them. In our chapter we experienced the unprecedented blessing in ourreach ministry without following UBF traditional methodology of fishing, through student leaders’ input and initiatives and leadership. Actually we a few leaders became too busy taking care of so many the Spirit is sending us to make time for personal fishing. Whether we follow the tradition of fishing or do something totally different, we should be guided by the guidence of the Holy Spirit. I am slowing learing to discern and obey the voice of the Spirit workng in me. Again, great articles. Especially David L’s prayerful suggestion for UBF ministry. Thanks, Joe for putting an excellent article as you always do.

  33. This might not be entirely related, but this article from CT talks about counting numbers:
    A few quotes: “… once we start recording those numbers and especially comparing them month to month and year to year, we open ourselves to all sorts of demons.” “Those year-to-year (numbers) are for the church what a bottle of (vodka) is to an alcoholic.” “We’ll be tempted to inflate, to lie, to treat people as numbers, to count higher and higher. In our drunken stupor, we’ll forget how to count to one.” Do we “recognize how dangerous an addiction … numbers can become”?
    Should we even continue to count whatever we have been counting in UBF?

  34. It appears that I am a little late to the conversation; however, I feel led by the Holy Spirit to offer my two-cents. I am a leader of a small house church in Florida. Over the years of fishing and studying the Bible with campus students, I have found what works for me and how God has used my ministry to positively impact the students I have served. Being from a small chapter (3 people), I have realized a basic truth while ministering to others. 1) Unless you sow you will not harvest. Sowing is the most basic form of ministry. In other words, “Sowing is the life blood of the ministry.” It is like the human heart that pumps the blood through the body. Without sowing ministry tends to stop or the ministry becomes stagnant and with a ministry of three a stagnant ministry is easily accomplished. I believe a healthy ministry, whether large or small, has relatively even numbers of aged and young disciples navigating their way through the ministry. The worst thing a director can do is throw a lid on the ministry and pretend there is no higher place to go. (Note: Jesus never put a lid on his discipleship ministry he always promised his disciples they would do greater things than him). I believe if you set your ministry up in such a way as the prospective disciple can see a way in and a way out and those who are graduating are much better off than those who are going in. Making a decision to become a disciple of Jesus through your ministry will be a no brainer.

  35. Jeff, it’s not too late to comment! Thanks for posting your thoughts and reminding us of the need to sow. Could you explain more what you mean about seeing a “way in and a way out”?

    Your posting brought Ben’s post above on the CT arcticle to my attention (I had missed it before). That article is quite good: “Learning to Count to One”. I need to learn to count to one.

    And I am glad to read Joshua Yoon’s comments above about being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. God can indeed do things we never imagined.

  36. In this day and age we have so many tools. I think it is foolish to not use them. Where are the “sheep”? (i dislike this term, but i’ll use it now) Where are the “fish”? They are on the internet. We need to use these social “nets”.
    Advertise on the “net” and you will “catch” those who have been seeking for themselves, make yourself available. You will find people more then willing to study the Bible, and they won’t be suspicious or distrusting because they can find out everything about you on the “net.”
     We use English club, as our bait. People google “Free English Club” and our website pops up. I also say it clearly everytime, “we are a church providing this service (free English lessons) in the name of Jesus. Come if you want, we are going to teach the Bible.” People come. (I don’t know what bait to use in the US, Korean/Spanish Lessons?) 

     Good intentions and back-breaking efforts are not enough; they need to be seasoned with wisdom and shrewdness.

  37. Thanks, MJ. For sure, we may make use of any and every opportunity to make our Savior known, including using the internet (while not being dependent on it). Older Christians tend to “don’t like it,” but interestingly Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed. …what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Lk 12:2-3).

    While praying to “increase in numbers,” I read these very interesting and insightful quotes by Leslie Newbigin: “There is no evidence (in the teaching of the New Testament) that the numerical growth of the church is a matter of primary concern.”

    Though we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), Newbigin wrote, “this nowhere appears as either an anxiety or an enthusiasm about the numerical growth of the church.”

    • Thanks for sharing this Ben. Although I’ve known these truths for many years, I am now seriously burdened by recalling the activities I participated in that relate to numerical growth (which was essentially the purpose of every meeting every week for 16 years). We had lists of every name of every person studying the Bible. We knew exactly what meetings each person missed and why.

      I remember being segregated into 3 or 4 groups during prayer meetings: those with 0 sheep, those with 1 to 3 sheep and those with more than 3 sheep (and sometimes a specially chosen group).  It was so very burdensome. I was SO happy when I moved from the 0 group to the 1 to 3 group. But then I became depressed when I had to move back to the 0 group. As you know all too well, I could fill up much of this blog with similar stories, but I’ll stop here.

      Reading comments like yours above, and seeing such truth in writing, does wonders for my psychological well-being (which I’m finding will take many years to become re-centered on the grace of Jesus). We need to hear more of this! 

  38. Quite sad, but not surprised to hear this, Brian. Growing our ministry, our church, our chapter, our fellowship, our disciples has sadly become a form of selfish ambition and idolatry, masquerading itself as noble, responsible Christianity.

    Often I thought that if Jeremiah was evaluated by the growth and increase of numbers of his ministry and influence, he would be regarded as a “rotten” prophet, because his entire nation went down the sewer during his years of service.

    • Tracking numerical growth seems to be a problem in Christianity. In fact, some are saying there are reasons not to do church planting in 2012, that we need to focus on transforming existing churches:  

      I for one say it is high time for UBF to stop the empire building mentality. But of course this contradicts the new year key verse direction to “conquer the land” from the book of Numbers. 

    • David Bychkov

      Actually the verse itself is not bad, it is till God word :). Yet we need to apply it in the biblical way. First we need to see the context of the event. Does it really tell us about conquering campuses or about mission gengerally? which mission? and if so, In order to use it for supporting missions we need to have clear New Tastement undestanding what mission really is. 

  39. So back to the original question posed above, “Is .3 percent enough?”  I had avoided giving my response to this one, but I’d like to share a few thoughts. This post cuts to the heart of some very important issues.

    I agree with this statement from the original post here: “Instead of assuming that it’s okay to sift through massive numbers of students to find the 0.3 percent that can remain among us, perhaps it’s time to stop, reflect upon ourselves, and consider how to reach at least some portion of the other 99.7 percent.”

    That kind of attitude would be in my response to the issues raised in this post. However, I have mixed feelings in seeing how UBF is responding. On one hand there are some good indications, such as The Well event. On the other hand, I see a desire to force the .3 percent to work harder. So in other words, the .3 percent must be enough (or so the thinking goes).

    The .3 percent are being encouraged to be noble conquerors (as evidenced by the new style group photos with everyone doing a fist-pump, as well as the sudden emphasis on 1 Timothy and Numbers verses).

    One chapter actually marched around a campus for a week and shouted at the end (like at Jericho). Another chapter had everyone jump around and shake (kind of like a joke), as a way to practice for being filled with the Holy Spirit. Such things don’t bode well for the future health of an organization desperately clinging to the .3 percent.

  40. Hello Abraham,  I also am concerned about our ignoring and grieving the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.  I am thinking a lot these days about Jesus words in Mk 3:29 and Lk 12:10 and wondering how when words and actions don’t just grieve Him, but “blaspheme” Him. What is the difference between grieving and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? It is so interesting that Jesus warns us that we will be forgiven getting Him(Jesus) wrong and speaking against Him, but not forgiven if we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I therefore must learn to discern the work of the Holy Spirit, right?

  41. Here’s an encouraging statistic (in honor of Joe :)

    The 3rd most searched term that leads people to ubfriends, is “Holy Spirit”. I really thank God for this website’s discussions on the Holy Spirit. I used to think that the Spirit was just an energy force. Then I started to think the Spirit is simply a helper to God, like an angel. 

    Through ubfriends articles and other discussions, I now realize how wrong such thinking is. The Holy Spirit is God, and not just a helper role, but has a primary role in creation and redemption, from Genesis to Revelation. 

    I think we all need to remember Scriptures teaching about who the Spirit is (God), how the Spirit works, and whole range of sin regarding Him. Once I understood the gospel correctly as the good news of the grace of forgiveness of sins, I could begin to understand the primary role the Spirit plays in my life. The Spirit’s indwelling is not a helper to us only, but such indwelling is in fact the whole mystery of God: Christ in you Colossians 1:27. If we miss this, we miss the essence of what Christ prayed for and what His commands are all about.

    For most of my “Christian” life I felt as if God was beside me or above me. Only when I surrendered to the grace of God did I find that God was inside me. Only when I repented of resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit did I discover Christ in me. So now prayer is not some long distance call to God in heaven, but a continual discussion with Christ in me.

    Here is a good overview I found last year about the Holy Spirit. (And Abraham, you are correct in your thinking about the living water.)

    Ways to sin against the Spirit:

    a. We can resist the Spirit – Acts 7:51
    b. We can quench the Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 5:19
    c. We can grieve the Spirit – Ephesians 4:30
    d. We can insult the Spirit – Hebrews 10:29
    e. We can blaspheme the Spirit – Matthew 12:31-32

    Ways the Holy Spirit works:

    a. Revealing and confirming the Word of Truth – Hebrews 2:3-4
    b. Convicting hearts of sin through the Word – John 16:7
    c. Regenerating those who respond to the gospel – John 3:5
    d. Indwelling those who obey the gospel – Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19
    e. Leading those who walk in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-18,25
    f. Producing the fruit of the Spirit in those so led – Galatians 5:22-23
    g. Strengthening those seeking to please God – Ephesians 3:16
    h. Serving as a seal, marking Christians as God’s own – Ephesians 1:13
    i. Serving as an earnest (guarantee) of our inheritance – Ephesians 1:14



  42. Wow!  Thanks Brian.  I think there is even more though.  I think that the Holy Spirits work is even wider than this, pertaining to creation, common grace, and drawing all people to Christ.  I haven’t done the hard work yet on this yet, though.

    • Yes Sharon, there is a LOT more about the Spirit in Scripture. The overview study above opened up a floodgate of knowledge and inspiration for me. I am SO convicted of my decades of ignoring the Spirit, which means I was ignoring God.

  43. This is a fresh report from a missionary who left my former chapter in order to pioneer a new city. (It was a good opportunity for his family to be farther from “the servant of God”). Think about the 0,3% which is not the case in this chapter.

    “4. Campus Evangelism and the Ministry of the Word

    We serve witnessing and fishing at Perm Engineering College and Perm Arts College on Saturdays and Sundays. After moving, we witnessed at Perm Education College too. As a result, I started 1:1 with a student whom I met in July. He was a freshman named Ruslan. He only solved question #1 with me and left when his friend called him. I was so happy to have a 1:1 with a new sheep at the new mission field. I had confidence in serving gospel ministry at this new place and looked up at the field that is ripe for harvest at Perm. From the pioneering stage, we have served one sheep named Stephen with 1:1. He dropped out of college and joined the army. He was discharged from the army and tried to find a job at Perm. Now he has gone back to his home town. His friend, Koscha is a college junior. He received my call very well. I lost my former fiery spirit and did not serve sheep wholeheartedly. Another reason is my two children are in eight and ninth grades and I spend lots of time and energy on my children. I pray that I may deny myself in order to help one sheep and seek his kingdom and his righteousness first. I confess that I was lacking in witnessing and teaching God’s word. By God’s grace we could come near campus and move to a good house church. I was self-conscious about my preaching at our house church. We always had a Sunday worship with our family only. So our children, Andrew and Daniel pushed us to invite sheep actively. This year, we studied Genesis and John. My recent important prayer topic is to prepare wonderful messages. In order to write good messages, I read many books and attended seminars in Korea. But my co-worker suggested that I not be too stressed out, but digest God’s servant’s messages and deliver them, and spend more time in witnessing instead. Even if there is a great message, it is of no use if there are no listening ears. Messages are for listeners. Therefore, I found the direction that I may read and digest the messages of God’s servants well and focus on witnessing. We pray to establish twelve 1:1’s this year. We pray to raise one Abraham and 30 Sunday Worship attendants by 2015. Our 2013 New Year’s key verse is Acts 6:4 “ and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” I realized that only through prayer and the power of the Word can I serve the pioneering ministry. Whenever I have time, I pray that I may focus on daily bread, meditation of words, and prayer and challenge the 2013 pioneering ministry”.

    Source :

  44. Terry Lopez

    Btw Joe,

    I really like your musings and questions. I want to really ‘chew’ on them and really think about what you have posted. Thank you! :-) But I will say this, in the past I found very few people responding to Bible study, they would come and study for a while, but they would leave after a while. I found it very unproductive and I was really unsure what the problem was. But I soon realized that I was like an old wine skin trying to serve students the Gospel in the same way that I had been served. The problem was that it wasn’t resonating with students. So I learned that I needed to be real, honest and genuine and not have an agenda and have a real concern about others welfare and be willing to genuinely sacrificially serve them with God’s love, giving my time, energy, and resources without ever thinking about the cost (that does not mean to make myself poverty stricken or to use my every waking second or to neglect my family for the sake of others, but it means to be reasonable with myself and give what I can and do so with a heart of joy and God’s love without any agenda). I didn’t ever ask students to answer a question sheet, and honestly I didn’t study in advance. I didn’t ask them to write testimony’s, I don’t write them. I didn’t ask them to do anything at all. If they could meet great, if they couldn’t that’s great. It didn’t matter. Strangely, when I started being reasonable with students, percentage was much better than .03%. I love it when I haven’t been to campus in a while and I go to Jamba Juice to get a couple drinks and there is a young girl who works there would always ask me, “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while?” She also knows what I do and we have become familiar with each other and friendly to one another, but I have not asked her to study the Bible. But who knows? Maybe in the future. :-)

    • Joe Schafer

      “So I learned that I needed to be real, honest and genuine and not have an agenda…”

      Terry, thank you for this comment. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

      If the purpose of forming relationships with people and loving them is to convert them to Christ, bring them to our church, etc. then we’ve gotten the whole thing backwards. People can smell such attitudes from a mile away and it makes them want to run.

      For me, the test of Christian relational integrity is this: “Am I willing to befriend this person and love him just the same whether he decides to come to my church or not?”

      And another question that I like to ask is this: “If I am going to share my faith with this person with the hope that he might come to believe as I do, am I willing to reciprocate? Will I listen attentively to him and be ready to learn from him, taking his views so seriously that I might even allow him to convert me?”

      If the answers to those questions are “No,” then it’s obvious that I am not interested in pursuing a loving friendship with this person. Rather, I am only interested in having a teacher/student relationship, with me seated at the teacher’s desk. There is a time and place for teaching and mentorship. But if I approach the people I meet with the attitude that I am going to be their teacher rather than their friend, it is prudent for them to run, run, run away from me as fast as they can, because I am not the kind of person that they should trust.

      Love needs no other agenda. Love itself should be the agenda.

      People do not encounter Jesus by looking up Bible references, by answering questions on a question sheet, and by being taught what the “right” answers are. They encounter Jesus when they sense that the church community loves them now and values them for who they are today (people in the image of God), not for what they might become in the future (committed members of the church).

    • Mark Mederich


  45. Terry Lopez


    I’m laughing right now, because a young girl that my wife and I study with at UCLA just texted my wife asking about how best to clean her tub… lol… Mari is busy preparing for her work tomorrow, so I just told her to use the Mr. Clean Magic Erasure’s. I find it amusing that I can even be asked about such a small matter. I feel very grateful and thankful that she would seek our advice over such a thing. She’s from China so she doesn’t know what the best product to clean with is. I hope she finds the Magic Erasure’s do the trick for her… One of our coworkers brothers works for the company (or did, I think he still does) that makes them and she told me to use them and I loooove them… :-)

  46. Joe Schafer

    Frank Viola wrote an interesting and compelling article on evangelism that expands upon many of the points made above.

    Have Evangelicals Gotten Evangelism Wrong? 12 Challenges.

  47. “Three students (1.0%) actually came to a Bible study, and one student (0.3%) eventually participated in discipleship training.”

    My Korean shepherdess also told me I needed to invite 100 people in order to find one to study the Bible with. But she did not perceive it as a problem. It just meant I should go more often to the campus and invite more people to find that one person. The fact that I am an introvert did not matter, I just needed to “deny myself” so I could do anything for the glory of God. In fact I was even successful in finding several people who studied the Bible with. They enjoyed the Bible study, but I failed to convert them into UBF members. The solution of my Korean shepherdess was to “dump” such people who were not willing to make visible steps to become UBF shepherds after. I later met some of them, and they told me how much they felt abandoned by God. She quoted Lk 13 in this context: “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” By doing so, she sent the message that their lives were meaningless and their souls were lost. There were many such people who somehow were catched by UBF, but then were dumped or left UBF on their own because they were hurt or abused. I call such people the “by-catch” of UBF fishing. Often the “by-catch” is more than the “targeted species” (both in UBF and in real fishing). Particularly when the targeted species is very rare, such as elite students who are willing to undergo the boring, mind-numbing and humiliating UBF training and subdue to authoritarian Korean leaders. Nobody wants to speak about the by-catch. Not in UBF, and not in real life. Often the by-catch is thrown over board back into the ocean in an injured and stressed condition that does not allow them to survive. But nobody cares.

    • Mark Mederich

      seems like mission is business (busy-ness) mentality to make drone followers

    • Mark Mederich

      mission is madness: gotta get it done, outa my way………….alot of collateral damage & little meaningful/lasting gain;
      so the answer to the question is: no 0.3 is not enough (sorry to burst our bubbles) & numbers are not sought in spite of other concerns: they’re experienced as a byproduct more meaningful fruit in people’s lives

  48. Chris, the “by-catch” is painful and gut-wrenching to read for nature and animal lovers.

    It really begs the BIG question: Should UBFers “fish for people” (Lk 5:10) to convert them to Christ, or to convert them to adopt the “UBF system of discipleship training”?

    • Mark Mederich

      Christ Alone, of course:)

    • sheepherd1

      It really begs the BIG question: Should UBFers “fish for people” (Lk 5:10) to convert them to Christ, or to convert them to adopt the “UBF system of discipleship training”? – See more at:

      That’s a big question that comes to my mind when I see Korean shepherds/missionaries that walks around the campus to invite students to bible study. I’m thinking… what is their goal: to evangelize them or to recruit them to UBF? As I heard from some UBF hardliners, UBF is where they’re blessed so others should go to UBF. At the same time, they disregards other churches.

    • Phil 2 Five

      This was a big question for me towards the last few years prior to my departure from UBF. Is UBF trying to bring people into a relationship with Christ or into a life-long relationship with UBF? From my experiences and life in UBF, I came to the conclusion that, at least in the chapter I attended, relationship with UBF is far more important and significant than a relationship with Christ!

  49. Mark Mederich

    only God is enough; numbers are for pride, fruit is for blessing

  50. Mark Mederich

    what percent would be enough to show useful approach? or better said, what good fruit would show blessed process?

  51. Mark Mederich

    when is .3% too much? gas leak
    when is .3% too little? remnant
    when is .3% just right? manufacturing

    • LOL! Yes ubf is a manufacturing system, designed to build one disciple per year. That is all they want, and that is all they get.

  52. Joe Schafer

    The presentation on fishing mentioned in this article five years ago is still being given.

    I guess I was wrong. 0.3% is enough.

    • .3% is just enough to keep the ubf heritage alive…that is all they care about. I apologize in advance but I just can’t stop laughing at these reports!

      “Fruitful fishing was discussed on the third day. According to the statistics only one out of three hundred people (0.3%) in preaching is connected to one to one Bible study. We may develop many methods of fishing, but we must have faith, for fruitful fishing ministry may be done by faith in God. We were so much interested in fruitful fishing ministry that we wanted to go on the discussion until midnight, but the session was stopped at 10:30 p.m. for the next day.”

      I read these from time to time for comical relief. It is literally astounding and breathtakingly sad that such things are STILL being reported in 2015!

      The reality is only .3% will put up with what one ubf leader calls the the most important sign of fruitful bible study: getting a boil on your butt as evidence of deep bible study….

  53. I think the .3% is being counter-acted by people leaving ubf. We’ll never know real numbers, but ubf declined drastically from 2008 to 2012.

    Last year, in 2014, about once a month someone contacted me to share their story of leaving ubf. In 2015, we are on the same pace. One person already contacted me in January, sharing how thankful they were for my blog and the warning about making any serious commitment at ubf.

  54. Joe Schafer

    Shortly after I published this article in 2010, I was visiting UBF headquarters and happened to see DK there. I wanted to discuss with him some of the things I wrote about in this article. I don’t believe this article was offensive. Anyone can see that, in the article and the discussion thread, above, I had tried really, really hard to be gentle and kind, and the questions I raised were legitimate. Basically, I was asking how and why the early church grew– was it because they all went out fishing again and again, or was it by some other means? But DK wouldn’t talk about it. His only response was, “What can I say? I have nothing to say.” Five years later, he’s giving the same presentation.

    • “I was asking how and why the early church grew..”

      Of course we know that the very fact of asking the question IS the problem at ubf.

      Speaking of DK… some people ought to come clean about the legal issues surrounding the old DuPage chapter. The rare glimpse into a ubf public interaction is hilarious:

      Public comments about ubf (this is public comments from neighbors when the city of Glen Ellen shut down the DuPage ubf chapter for meeting illegally. There was a sudden, odd “pioneering” after this event. See for yourself…)

    • Of course, everything was so glorious!

    • “One day while praying, God spoke to us, saying, “It is not strange. Why don’t you go and pioneer?” Suddenly, we felt the burden of responsibility.”

      Really? I think that burden is clearly the city officials and neighbor complaints!!!!

    • I know I am ranting, but please pardon me for a moment. I am passionate about exposing ubf to the light of public scrutiny.

      For any ubf missionary: Don’t come to America from Korea and ignore our breaking-and-entering laws. Don’t come to America from Korea and ignore our zoning laws. Don’t come to America from Korea and skirt around our non-profit laws (how does a non-profit earn over $900K profit in 2013?)

      If you are going to disrespect this land, get on a boat and go back to your land.

  55. Let me say a few things:

    (1) I did not like David Kim’s lecture when I heard it a few years ago. It’s what I would call a “cringe factor.” I’m very very sorry that he is still giving it. His lecture, which in my opinion was rather long and tedious, could be delivered in a few seconds: “Keep on fishing and never give up fishing, even if countless students reject your Bible study invitation.”

    (2) Some senior leaders in UBF (who I don’t think have gone fishing for some time/years/decades) love David Kim’s imperative driven lecture to keep on fishing, which underlings and foot soldiers in UBF are expected to do.

    (3) That said, I’ve known David Kim for almost three decades. He is a really nice, friendly, genuine and unoffensive person. He himself truly believes in the UBF paradigm of “go fishing until you drop.” Most importantly, he himself avidly goes fishing regularly even though he is in his 50s, I think. He is also pretty good and natural at approaching students, without them feeling offended.

    (4) I would have to say that personally fishing is not my gifting. My rate of “success” over two decades might be closer to 0.1%!!! That’s why I’m personally done with fishing.

    • forestsfailyou

      Fishing seems super awkward. I study the bible intermittently with nearly all my friends (even when they don’t realize it…) and can’t get over the whole Mormon vibe when asking people. I have done it a few times but I would rather just post signs for a bible study and offer free food.

    • Joe Schafer

      For the record, I agree with Ben’s comments above.

      Many discussions about fishing (is it good or bad?) sound strange to me, because they beg the question of what the fishing is meant to accomplish. Fishing is just a tool, and it can be used for different purposes. Some have tried to portray fishing as a kind of street evangelism: you go out and tell people about Jesus, you invite them to Bible study so they can hear about Jesus. But in practice, it was really about inviting people to ubf activities and events, hoping to enlist them into ubf-style discipleship so that they would eventually become “leaders” (euphemism for obedient followers) in the group. It was about bringing people into your fellowship to get your 1:1 numbers up so that you would get stars next to your name on the big chart on the wall, and so that you would be praised and treated as exemplary instead of getting rebuked when SL gave his announcements at the end of every meeting. And it was about making you (the one who goes fishing) feel good about yourself, so that you could tell yourself that you really did love God, that you were a real disciple, a hard core believer, not one of those lazy/namby-pamby/nominal/cultural Christians who do nothing except go to church on Sunday.

      Deep down, this is what I had always found problematic about the whole thing. Ministry leaders, beginning with SL, constantly pressured us to go to campus and bring people as a sign of our obedience to God. But to what were we bringing them? I could never really get into fishing because, at a subconscious level, I found many aspects of the ubf enterprise embarrassing. I was embarrassed the discipleship methods (submission to weird kinds of “training”, deciding who and when you marry), the quality of its Bible study (repetitive, simplistic, juvenile slogans, being told to just accept), the attitudes and character of its people (judgmental, elitist, bragging about how humble they were), and the pressure to conform (wearing certain kinds of clothes, speaking in konglish, sharing a testimony that sounds just like everyone else’s, lest you get labeled as proud or rebellious). If ubf had reflected more of the qualities of God’s kingdom, I would have been more eager to bring people on my own. The fact that ubf leaders have to continually exhort members to go fishing is a sign that members really don’t want to bring more people to ubf, and for good reasons.

  56. Mark Mederich

    great trouble has come from trying to please man, we must now only please God

  57. I’ve relegated the angst of fishing to the garbage pile in my mind… but some things need to be said to go along with these thoughts:

    “It was about bringing people into your fellowship to get your 1:1 numbers up so that you would get stars next to your name on the big chart on the wall,”

    In the 1990’s and 2000’s in Toledo ubf, we only had charts for conference registrations. Same concept though; more praise for more stickers! But some of us considered star stickers to be too proud. So we used colored dots usually :) I do remember the 1:1 charts though, and offering charts, brazenly shared on the walls of the old house in Toledo used as a meeting place (until zoning laws stepped in).

    “…and so that you would be praised and treated as exemplary instead of getting rebuked when SL gave his announcements at the end of every meeting.”

    Yes, same here. Even though it was not SL, the Korean chapter directors all tended to try to be SL and do similar things. In our case, it was sometimes the announcements at the end of every daily meeting, but mostly it was the rebuke in the Sunday lecture/announcements that we feared. The Friday announcements were also brutal. The shame and guilt was laid on so heavy at the mandatory Friday “testimony sharing” meeting (which was 3 to 6 hours long).

    During many of those we prayed in multiple groups: 0 fishing group, 1 fishing group and 2 or more fishing group. Sometimes this was the number of fishing attempts you made. Other times it was the number of bible studies you had that week. We always had to set the group numbers so low because only 1 or 2 “shepherds” actually made progress in the fishing realm. The biggest group was always the 0 group. This is clearly because fishing is recruiting, and not many are skilled at recruitment.

    “And it was about making you (the one who goes fishing) feel good about yourself, so that you could tell yourself that you really did love God, that you were a real disciple”

    At first fishing was like this for me. It made me feel good. But then it became an escape. Two good things happened when I went “fishing” every week: 1) the pressure was off my back and I could move out of the 0 group 2) I could think for myself. Almost always I just wondered campus aimlessly for 30 minutes. This allowed me to count toward my quota and not actually have to endure the embarrassment of recruiting. I did love the ubf lifestyle at one point, but the continual demands turned my heart to feel so ashamed and not want anyone to come to the events we had ad nauseam.

    • And anyone who knows me from back then in Toledo ubf can see that how I felt was drastically different from how I looked and what I said. This huge disconnect grew until I could no longer sustain the tension between the imagined “Shepherd X” who diligently went fishing and praised God every meeting and the stark reality I lived each day.